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Washington v. West Quality Food Services, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 3, 2019

WILBUR M. WASHINGTON, JR. AND HAZEL M. WASHINGTON APPELLANTS
v.
WEST QUALITY FOOD SERVICES, INC. APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/29/2017

          JONES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. DAL WILLIAMSON TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: WAYNE E. FERRELL JR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JOHN D. BRADY.

          BEFORE J. WILSON, P.J., TINDELL AND LAWRENCE, JJ.

          J. WILSON, P.J.

         ¶1. Wilbur Washington was injured when he slipped and fell in a restroom at a gas station convenience store. He later sued various entities that owned the property or that operated or were affiliated with the gas station or the convenience store. He also sued West Quality Food Services Inc. (West), a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchisee that operated a restaurant as a tenant in another part of the same building as the convenience store. Washington eventually settled with and/or voluntarily dismissed all defendants other than West.

         ¶2. Washington alleged that West failed to exercise reasonable care to keep the restroom in a reasonably safe condition. West moved for summary judgment, arguing that it did not exercise control over the restroom, which was in a common area of the building. The circuit court granted West's motion, and Washington appealed. We agree with the circuit court that there is no genuine issue of material fact or evidence that West exercised control over the restroom. Therefore, West is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶3. Tugwell Oil Company built the "Casino Center Exxon II" in Robinsonville in 1996. The property consisted of a gas station and a convenience store with a restaurant on either end of the convenience store. A Subway sandwich shop was at one end of the building. Tugwell leased the other end to West to operate a KFC franchise. There were no restrooms in the part of the building that Tugwell leased to West. Restrooms were located off a foyer between the convenience store and the KFC.

         ¶4. West's lease with Tugwell required Tugwell to maintain the restrooms and other "common areas" of the building. West was required to pay Tugwell part of the cost of maintaining the common areas, including the restrooms. West agreed to pay Tugwell $500 per month for such costs.

         ¶5. In 2003, Tugwell sold the Casino Center Exxon II to Tunica Properties LLC. West and Tunica Properties continued to operate under the original Tugwell-West lease, and West continued to pay Tunica Properties $500 per month for maintenance costs.[1]

         ¶6. In May 2009, Washington was driving from Memphis to Tunica. He and his family had been to Memphis for the day while in Tunica for a convention. On their way back to Tunica, they stopped at the Casino Center Exxon II to use the restroom and to get something to eat at the KFC.

         ¶7. The restrooms were off a foyer just inside the entrance to the convenience store. Washington and his son went in the men's restroom. While in the restroom, Washington slipped and fell in "water and urine" that had collected around a "big drain . . . in the floor." He tried to get up, but he slipped and fell again. Washington immediately experienced pain in his shoulders. He reported his fall to a cashier named Casey at the ...


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