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Bratton v. Walmart Stores East, LP

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

January 11, 2018

CAROLYN BRATTON PLAINTIFF
v.
WALMART STORES EAST, LP DEFENDANT

          ORDER

          CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The matter is fully briefed and ready for adjudication.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         On May 12, 2015, Carolyn Bratton was shopping for cake mix at the Walmart in Jackson, Mississippi. As she walked the aisle, she slipped on a clear substance and fell. This suit followed.

         The parties agree that a substance on the floor caused Bratton's fall. They also agree that there is no evidence Walmart put the substance on the floor. The dispute is whether Walmart is liable for Bratton's fall because it knew or should of known about the substance and failed to clean it up in time.

         II. Legal Standard[1]

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “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). A party seeking to avoid summary judgment must identify admissible evidence in the record showing a fact dispute. Id. at 56(c)(1). “Once a summary judgment motion is made and properly supported, the nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts in the record showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Neither ‘conclusory allegations' nor ‘unsubstantiated assertions' will satisfy the nonmovant's burden.” Wallace v. Tex. Tech Univ., 80 F.3d 1042, 1047 (5th Cir. 1996) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

         The Court views the evidence and draws reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Maddox v. Townsend and Sons, Inc., 639 F.3d 214, 216 (5th Cir. 2011). But the Court will not, “in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.” McCallum Highlands, Ltd. v. Wash. Capital Dus, Inc., 66 F.3d 89, 92 (5th Cir. 1995), as revised on denial of reh'g, 70 F.3d 26 (5th Cir. 1995).

         III. Discussion

         A. Substantive Law

         Mississippi premises liability law applies to this case. Capital City Ins. Co. v. Hurst, 632 F.3d 898, 902 (5th Cir. 2011). Mississippi law is determined by looking to the decisions of the Mississippi Supreme Court. St. Paul Fire and Marine Ins. Co. v. Convalescent Servs., Inc., 193 F.3d 340, 342 (5th Cir. 1999).

         Premises owners in Mississippi owe business invitees “a duty of reasonable care in keeping their premises in a reasonably safe condition.” Pigg v. Express Hotel Partners, LLC, 991 So.2d 1197, 1199 (Miss. 2008) (citations omitted). At the same time, “a premises owner is not an insurer of the safety of invitees.” Id.

         While the framework for slip and fall cases has been articulated in different ways, [2] today's parties acknowledge the following standard:

[F]or a plaintiff to recover in a slip-and-fall case, he must (1) show that some negligent act of the defendant caused his injury;[3] or, (2) show that the defendant had actual knowledge of a dangerous condition and failed to warn the plaintiff; or, (3) show that the dangerous condition existed for a sufficient amount of time to impute constructive ...

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