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Patterson v. MI Toro Mexican, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

July 17, 2018

BRUCE PATTERSON APPELLANT
v.
MI TORO MEXICAN, INC. APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/24/2017

          ALCORN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. PAUL S. FUNDERBURK TRIAL JUDGE:

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: BRIAN L. STARLING

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: MARC A. SORIN

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND WILSON, JJ.

          WILSON, J.

         ¶1. On a rainy day in Corinth, Bruce Patterson slipped and fell on a wheelchair ramp as he left Mi Toro, a Mexican restaurant, carrying takeout.[1] Patterson later sued Mi Toro, but the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Mi Toro after concluding that there were no genuine issues of material fact and that the wheelchair ramp was not a "dangerous condition." We agree with the circuit court and therefore affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Around lunchtime on November 5, 2014, Patterson went to Mi Toro for takeout. He went inside the restaurant while his then-fiancée stayed in the car. It was raining at the time, and the parking lot was wet. Patterson picked up his order and left the restaurant. In his deposition, Patterson testified that he slipped and fell on a short wheelchair ramp that connects the parking lot to the sidewalk near the door to the restaurant. The ramp was painted yellow, and Patterson claims that the paint was "slick" because it was wet from the rain and there was no "gravel" or "sand" in the paint. Patterson had used the same door when he entered and exited Mi Toro on about ten prior occasions, and he had never slipped on the ramp or noticed that it was slick. Patterson claims that the ramp appeared "freshly painted" on the day he fell.[2]

         ¶3. Patterson told Mi Toro employees that he did not need an ambulance. He drove himself to the hospital because his back, knee, and side hurt, but he left the hospital later that day. In January 2016, he sued Mi Toro in circuit court, alleging that he suffered injuries because Mi Toro failed to keep its property in a safe condition.

         ¶4. Mi Toro's manager, Salvador Garcia, testified in his deposition that the ramp was not freshly painted and had not been painted since around 2012. Garcia, who had worked at Mi Toro for twenty years, also testified that he was not aware of any other customer who had ever slipped and fallen on the ramp.

         ¶5. After the parties engaged in discovery, Mi Toro moved for summary judgment on the ground that there was no evidence of a dangerous condition on the premises at the time and place of Patterson's fall. The circuit court agreed there was no genuine issue of material fact and granted Mi Toro's motion for summary judgment. Patterson appealed.

         ANALYSIS

         ¶6. "We review the grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment de novo, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the [non-moving] party . . . ." Karpinsky v. Am. Nat'l Ins., 109 So.3d 84, 88 (¶9) (Miss. 2013) (internal quotation mark omitted). Summary judgment "shall be rendered" if the record evidence shows "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." M.R.C.P. 56(c). Thus, "summary judgment is appropriate when the non-moving party has failed to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to the party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Karpinsky, 109 So.3d at 89 (ΒΆ 11) (internal quotation mark omitted). Furthermore, the non-moving "party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings, ...


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