United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division
DR. DEBRA L. WALKER, PLAINTIFFS
TARGET CORPORATION DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
reasons below, the Court grants in part and denies in part
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment  as to
liability. Specifically, the Court grants the motion as to
Plaintiffs' punitive damages claim, but it denies the
motion in all other respects.
a slip-and-fall case. Plaintiff Debra Walker slipped in a
puddle of water while shopping at Target in Hattiesburg,
Mississippi. She claims that the fall caused her to sustain
permanently disabling injuries. Her husband claims a loss of
consortium. They demanded a wide variety of damages.
Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment  as to
liability, which the Court now addresses.
Standard of Review
provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment
if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Sierra
Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d
134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010). “An issue is material if its
resolution could affect the outcome of the action.”
Sierra Club, Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. “An issue
is ‘genuine' if the evidence is sufficient for a
reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Cuadra v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist.,
626 F.3d 808, 812 (5th Cir. 2010).
Court is not permitted to make credibility determinations or
weigh the evidence. Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d
156, 164 (5th Cir. 2009). When deciding whether a genuine
fact issue exists, “the court must view the facts and
the inference to be drawn therefrom in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party.” Sierra Club,
Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. However, “[c]onclusional
allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences,
unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do
not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a
genuine issue for trial.” Oliver v. Scott, 276
F.3d 736, 744 (5th Cir. 2002).
Debra Walker's Premises Liability Claim
premises liability case, the plaintiff must prove the four
elements of common-law negligence: (1) duty, (2) breach of
duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages. Rogers v. Sunbelt
Mgmt. Co., 52 F.Supp.3d 816, 822 (S.D.Miss. 2014). The
duty owed to the plaintiff depends on his or her status as an
invitee, licensee, or trespasser. Doe v. Miss. State
Fed'n of Colored Women's Club Housing for the Elderly
in Clinton, Inc., 941 So.2d 820, 826 (Miss. Ct. App.
2006). Therefore, “[p]remises liability analysis under
Mississippi law requires three determinations: (1) legal
status of the injured person, (2) relevant duty of care, and
(3) defendant's compliance with that duty.”
Wood v. RIH Acquisitions MS II LLC, 556
F.3d 274, 275 (5th Cir. 2009); see also Leffler v.
Sharp, 891 So.2d 152, 156 (Miss. 2004).
undisputed that Plaintiff was an invitee at the time of the
accident. “Mississippi law imposes upon a business
owner or operator a duty to the invitee to keep its premises
in a reasonably safe condition and to warn of dangerous
conditions which are not readily apparent to the
invitee.” K-Mart Corp. v. Hardy, 735 So.2d
975, 981 (Miss. 1999). However, a business owner is not an
insurer against all accidents and injuries that may occur on
its premises. Anderson v. B. H. Acquisitions, Inc.,
771 So.2d 914, 918 (Miss. 2000). Furthermore, mere proof of
the existence of a fall within a business is insufficient to
recover on a negligence claim. Rod v. Home Depot USA,
Inc., 931 So.2d 692, 695 (Miss. Ct. App. 2006). To prove
a premises liability claim, a plaintiff-invitee must show
(1) a negligent act of the defendant caused her injury; (2)
the defendant had actual knowledge of the dangerous
condition, but failed to warn the plaintiff; or (3) the
defendant should have known about the dangerous condition, in
that the dangerous condition existed for a sufficient amount
of time to impute constructive knowledge to the defendant.
Id. at 694-95 (citing Byrne v. Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc., 877 So.2d 462, 465 (Miss. Ct. App.2004)).
contend that a Target employee caused Mrs. Walker's
injury. They argue that a Target employee left a refrigerated
cart full of products in the aisle, and that condensation
dripped from the cart onto the floor, creating the puddle of
water in ...