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Walden v. Central Parking System of Tennessee Inc

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

April 27, 2015

JENNIFER WALDEN
v.
CENTRAL PARKING SYSTEM OF TENNESSEE, INC., et al.

Session January 14, 2015.

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Knox County No. 1-519-09 Dale C. Workman, Judge.

Jennifer Walden ("Plaintiff") sued Central Parking System of Tennessee, Inc. ("Central Parking") and Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center ("Fort Sanders")[1] for negligence after she allegedly suffered injuries as a result of a fall in a parking garage located in Knoxville, Tennessee. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court") granted defendants summary judgment after finding and holding, inter alia, “that no alleged fault on the part of the defendants was the cause of plaintiff's accident and injuries, that the same occurred due to her own failure to observe the open and obvious condition of the premises that was there to be seen, and that reasonable minds could not differ on this issue." We find and hold that there is a genuine disputed issue of material fact regarding whether Plaintiff's fault was greater than defendants'. We, therefore, reverse the grant of summary judgment and remand this case for further proceedings.

Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Reversed Case Remanded.

David H. Dunaway and Rick A. Owens, LaFollette, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jennifer Walden.

R. Kim Burnette and Stacie D. Miller, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Central Parking System of Tennessee, Inc. and Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.

D. Michael Swiney, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., C.J., and John W. McClarty, J., joined.

OPINION

D. MICHAEL SWINEY, JUDGE.

Background

On August 12, 2009 Plaintiff parked her vehicle in a parking garage owned by and located near Fort Sanders, and operated by Central Parking.[2] After attending an appointment nearby, Plaintiff returned to the garage and entered the fourth floor. Plaintiff fell while walking in the garage to get to her vehicle and suffered injuries to her right arm. Plaintiff filed suit against Central Parking and Fort Sanders (collectively “Defendants") for negligence in October of 2009.[3]

Discovery commenced, and Plaintiff testified during her deposition that she never had been in that garage prior to the day of the accident. The weather that day was “sunny and warm, " and Plaintiff was returning to her vehicle a few minutes before noon. There was both artificial and natural light in the parking garage at that time. Plaintiff testified that as she walked toward her vehicle:

Well, everything looked the same, and I was taking a few steps to go to my car, and all the sudden it just gave way with me. It just dropped and I didn't see the difference in the height of the drop from the step down. Everything just went out from under me. I didn't see the step down. . . . It all looked the same. I mean, I didn't see anything but gray.... I didn't see the step down. . . . I didn't see it. I mean, I looked. I didn't see anything that was yellow or anything, or I would have looked - - been more careful. I didn't see any yellow markings. . . . I didn't see it. It all looked the same. It looked like one level when I come through that door.

When asked, Plaintiff agreed that she was looking down where she was walking. She further stated: “It all looked the same. I'm sorry, I can't tell you why I didn't see it. I was looking. It all looked gray. It all looked the same. Maybe it was faded. I don't know. Maybe it was faded too bad to see." Photographs of the scene of Plaintiff's fall were produced, but it was admitted that the photographs depict the scene from an angle and viewpoint different from the one Plaintiff would have had as she was walking toward her vehicle.

Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. After a hearing the Trial Court entered its order on May 1, 2014 granting Defendants summary ...


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