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Moore v. Rouse's Enterprises, LLC

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 16, 2017

MARZETTIA MOORE APPELLANT
v.
ROUSE'S ENTERPRISES, LLC APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/09/2015

         HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. CHRISTOPHER LOUIS SCHMIDT TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: CAROL L. HENDERSON.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: BRADLEY ADAM HAYS CHRISTOPHER OWEN MASSENBURG.

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES, ISHEE AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          BARNES, J.

         ¶1. 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.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. 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.

         ¶3. 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.

         ¶4. 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 with prejudice.

         ¶5. Moore filed a motion for reconsideration of the ruling, which the trial court denied.[1] On appeal, we find no error and affirm the judgment.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6. "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 (ΒΆ5) ...


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