OF JUDGMENT: 10/09/2015
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. CHRISTOPHER LOUIS SCHMIDT TRIAL
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: CAROL L. HENDERSON.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: BRADLEY ADAM HAYS CHRISTOPHER OWEN
LEE, C.J., BARNES, ISHEE AND GREENLEE, JJ.
Marzettia Moore filed a negligence complaint against
Rouse's Enterprises LLC (Rouse's) after she slipped
and fell in a Rouse's grocery store. At trial, the
Harrison County Circuit Court, First Judicial District,
granted Rouse's motion for a directed verdict, finding
Moore had failed to satisfy her burden of proof for the
premises-liability claim. Finding no error, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On September 10, 2010, Moore and her husband, Anthony Moore,
were grocery shopping at a Rouse's market located at 1345
Pass Road, Gulfport, Mississippi. While walking by a long
"coffin" freezer that contained frozen seafood,
Moore fell into a "split-leg" position. Although
she did not see any water on the floor prior to her fall, a
tiny puddle of water was observed in the area after her fall.
Moore was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she was
released a few hours later. The ambulance report stated that
Moore had severe hip pain that "radiat[ed] down"
her right leg, but she denied any "head, neck[, ] or
back pain." The hospital's report stated that in
addition to hip pain, Moore had pain in her right upper arm
and elbow, "low back pain, " and "[r]ight
ankle pain." Moore suffered only soft-tissue injuries;
she did not have any fractures or require any surgery.
On March 14, 2011, Moore filed a negligence action against
Rouse's, alleging that the water on the floor constituted
a dangerous condition and that the store should have been
aware of the water's presence. She sought damages for her
medical expenses, compensatory damages, litigation costs, and
court costs. A two-day jury trial began on October 6, 2015.
Although Moore said that "you could see [water] coming
out . . . [of] that freezer, " she later acknowledged on
cross-examination that, on the day of the accident, she did
not recall seeing any water leaking from the freezer. Scott
Neckels, the store manager, stated that he had inspected the
store less than an hour before Moore fell, and that there was
no water on the floor in that area. A "Manager's
Floor Inspection Record" was entered into evidence,
showing that Neckels completed his full store inspection at
6:05 p.m.; Moore fell at approximately 6:30 p.m.
Additionally, a "Floor Cleaning Record" indicated
that Rouse's maintenance personnel, Leo Lang, had
"cleaned . . . and [ensured] that all floor areas [were]
free of spills, broken products, or any other hazard" at
6:11 p.m. Lang testified he saw no water on the floor at that
time, and neither employee was aware of any water leaking
from the freezer in question.
At the conclusion of Moore's case-in-chief, Rouse's
moved for a directed verdict, asserting that: (1) Moore
failed to present "credible, reliable causation evidence
. . . outside of her lay opinion"; and (2) Moore failed
to meet her burden of proof in establishing that Rouse's
"caused the water to be on the floor" or had actual
or constructive knowledge "that a potential hazard was
on the floor at the time Mrs. Moore allegedly fell." In
a bench opinion, the trial court granted Rouse's motion,
finding that Moore "failed to establish a prima facie
case for jury consideration." The trial court further
determined that the issue of causation was moot based on its
holding. On October 9, 2015, the circuit court entered its
order, granting Rouse's motion for a directed verdict, as
Moore failed to meet her burden of proof for the
premises-liability claim, and dismissing Moore's claim
Moore filed a motion for reconsideration of the ruling, which
the trial court denied. On appeal, we find no error and affirm
"A motion for [a] directed verdict tests the legal
sufficiency of the plaintiff's evidence, " with the
trial court considering "whether the evidence, as
applied to the elements of a party's case, is either so
indisputable, or so deficient, that the necessity of a trier
of fact has been obviated." McGee v. River Region
Med. Ctr., 59 So.3d 575, 578 (¶8) (Miss. 2011). In
reviewing a court's decision for a directed verdict, we
"consider the evidence in the same light as the trial
court." Anderson v. B.H. Acquisition Inc., 771
So.2d 914, 917 (¶5) ...