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McDavid v. Aldi, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

July 10, 2017

LINDA MCDAVID, Plaintiff,
v.
ALDI, INC., JANE/JOHN DOE 1, and JANE/JOHN DOE 2, Defendants.

          ORDER

          SAMUEL H. MAYS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant ALDI, Inc.'s February 9, 2017 Motion for Summary Judgment (the “Motion”). (ECF No. 18 at 64.[1]) Plaintiff Linda McDavid responded on June 2, 2017. (ECF No. 40 at 147.) ALDI replied on June 13, 2017. (ECF No. 41 at 165.)

         For the following reasons, the Motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         McDavid brings this premises liability action against ALDI for injuries she alleges she sustained from a fall while shopping in one of ALDI's stores on July 14, 2015. At the time of the fall, McDavid was shopping on the left-hand side of the frozen-foods aisle, where grocery items were displayed behind large glass doors.[2] The aisle was 102.5 inches wide (about 8.5 feet), but there was a center-aisle display in the part of the aisle where McDavid was shopping. (ECF No. 18-1 ¶ 4 at 68.) ALDI had arranged several 40-by-45-inch wooden pallets and boxes end-to-end down a portion of the center of the aisle, with the 45-inch sides of the pallets running parallel with the aisle. (Id. ¶ 5 at 68.) On the pallet nearest McDavid at the time of her fall, ALDI had stacked five or six boxes horizontally on top of one another, each measuring about 3-feet-by-3-feet and several inches thick.

         McDavid pushed her shopping cart forward so that she could open one of the glass doors to remove some frozen chicken. (ECF No. 40-3 at 160, 163.) The space between the side of the aisle and the edge of the center-aisle display was approximately 3 feet. (See ECF No. 18-1 ¶¶ 4-7.) McDavid opened the door, which extended approximately 2 feet into the aisle. (Id.) While holding the door open with her body, McDavid bent forward, removed one bag of chicken, stood erect for several seconds, and reached back into the unit to remove a second bag. (ECF No. 40-3 at 161.)

         As she straightened up a second time, McDavid stepped backward, allowing the door to close. (Id. at 160.) When she did so, her foot hit part of the center-aisle display, and she fell backward into the display, causing several of the boxes to topple over. (ECF No. 18-2 at 77; ECF No. 40-3 at 160.) McDavid landed on her buttocks atop two of the boxes, which remained on the pallet. (ECF No. 40-3 at 162.)

         McDavid testified at her deposition that, when she tried to get up, her foot got caught in an exposed part of the pallet, her foot twisted, and she fell a second time.[3] (ECF No. 18-2 at 76, 79; ECF No. 40-3 at 160-63.) She testified that she fell stomach- or face-down onto the floor. (Id.)

         When asked whether she knew that the boxes “were there before the accident, ” McDavid testified that she did and that she had to push her shopping cart forward to open the freezer door because the “aisle was very narrow.” (ECF No. 40-3 at 163.) Her deposition testimony reflects the following exchange:

Attorney: You knew that before you fell?
McDavid: Yeah, I did. So when I came out of the freezer, not paying attention I guess, whatever, I don't know, and I fell.
Attorney: Was it a case of just misjudging and backing into the boxes in the first place?
McDavid: I don't know if that is a good answer. I just didn't pay attention. I don't know. I don't know how to explain that part of the fall. I don't know if I misjudged it or measured or I just said I can't go this far, I didn't do that. I am shopping.

(Id.)

         ALDI represents that “there have been no personal injury lawsuits filed against the store involved in this case, or arising out of accidents at that store, within the five years preceding the accident that is the subject of this case.” (ECF No. 18-3 at 81.) ALDI represents that, with the exception of a 2013 incident where “a customer bumped into a pallet in the checklane area and knocked it onto another customer's left foot, ” “there were no accidents at the subject store that involved persons backing into center-aisle displays or that were otherwise similar to the accident in this case” within the five years preceding the incident in this case. (Id. at 82.) The record does not show how long the center-aisle display into which McDavid fell, or one like it, had been set up in the ALDI store before the incident.

         II. Jurisdiction and Choice of Law

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), this Court has original jurisdiction of all civil actions between citizens of different states “where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). McDavid is a citizen of Tennessee. (ECF No. 1 at 1.) ALDI is an Illinois corporation with its principal place of business in Illinois. (Id.) McDavid seeks damages in excess of $75, 000. (Id.) The parties are completely diverse, and the amount-in-controversy requirement is satisfied.

         In a diversity action, state substantive law governs. See Brocklehurst v. PPG Indus., Inc., 123 F.3d 890, 894 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)). Where, as here, there is no dispute that a certain state's substantive law applies, the court will not conduct a “choice of law” analysis sua sponte. See GBJ Corp. v. E. Ohio Paving Co., 139 F.3d 1080, 1085 (6th Cir. 1998). Tennessee substantive law applies.

         III. ...


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