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Martin v. Trustmark Corp.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 10, 2019

WILDA ANN MARTIN APPELLANT
v.
TRUSTMARK CORPORATION APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/24/2018

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. TOMIE T. GREEN

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: MATTHEW THOMPSON GREGORY J. BOSSELER

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JAMES D. HOLLAND

         EN BANC.

          J. WILSON, P.J.

         ¶1. Wilda Ann Martin sued Trustmark Corporation after she tripped over the threshold in the doorway of a women's restroom in the Trustmark building in downtown Jackson. She alleges that the threshold is an unreasonably dangerous condition. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Trustmark, and Martin appealed. The threshold is not a dangerous condition. Therefore, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On December 21, 2015, Wilda Ann Martin and her daughter, Kim Neyland, went Christmas shopping. When they finished shopping, Martin drove Neyland to downtown Jackson to meet Neyland's husband, who worked at a law firm downtown. Because it was raining, Martin and Neyland decided to park in the covered customer parking adjacent to the Trustmark building, though they did not have any business at the bank. Martin and Neyland then entered the building.

         ¶3. Neyland had worked in the Trustmark building several years earlier, and there had been a restroom on the first floor when she worked there. However, she testified that the door that led to the restroom had a sign on it that read "Health and Wellness" or "Trustwell." At her deposition, Neyland was shown a photograph of the door with a sign that stated "Trustwell" and "Employees Only." Neyland testified that she did not "recall it saying 'Employees Only' at the time." She did not dispute that it did-she simply did not recall.

         ¶4. Neyland testified that she entered the coffee shop in the lobby of the building and asked an employee, "Is there a restroom?" Neyland testified that the employee, Nigel Davis, answered, "Yes. Right through those doors." Davis testified that Neyland asked him, "Is that restroom still there?" According to Davis, he simply answered "yes" and then continued serving his customers. Davis testified that at times he had given visitors to the building "permission" to use the first-floor restroom as a "[c]ourtesy." However, Davis did not consider it a "public" restroom, and no one from Trustmark had ever specifically authorized him to allow customers to use it. Davis also did not know whether Trustmark or the coffee shop had any policies regarding public use of the restroom.

         ¶5. Neyland and Martin went through the "Trustwell" door and walked down a hallway. The door to the women's restroom is at the end of that hallway on the left. Inside the door, there is a short entranceway with a white vinyl tile floor. A second doorway (without a door) separates the entranceway's white vinyl tile floor from the blue tile floor of the restroom itself. There is a "threshold" in that doorway. A photograph of the threshold is attached as an appendix to this opinion. As the photo shows, the threshold is white, but a different shade than the vinyl tile. The threshold allegedly rises one and one-eighth of an inch from the adjacent tile floor. It is not an abrupt right angle but a "slanted" threshold.

         ¶6. Neyland crossed the threshold into the restroom. Walking behind Neyland, Martin allegedly tripped over the threshold. She fell and sustained serious injuries to her shoulder.

         ¶7. Martin sued Trustmark in Hinds County Circuit Court. In her complaint, she alleged that she fell because of a "defect in the floor" that was a dangerous condition. In her amended complaint, she alleged that "she tripped on a foreign object" that was a dangerous condition. In her deposition, Martin asserted that the threshold "should have been marked with another hazardous different color flooring." Martin later submitted a ...


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