United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
JEANETTE R. BANTA, Plaintiff,
WAL-MART STORES, EAST, LP. Defendant.
CHRISTOPHER H. STEGER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Jeanette R. Banta slipped and fell in a puddle of water next
to a flower display case while shopping in a store owned by
Defendant Wal-Mart Stores, East, LP (Wal-Mart). She injured
her back and shoulder in the fall and brings this negligence
action under Tennessee law seeking compensatory damages in
the amount of $100, 000. This Court has jurisdiction on the
basis of diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. Wal-Mart moves for summary judgment on the
ground that Plaintiff cannot come forward with evidence that
it caused or had actual or constructive notice of the puddle
which caused her to slip [Doc. 23]. For the reasons stated
herein, the Court agrees and will GRANT
Wal-Mart's motion for summary judgment and enter judgment
in favor of Wal-Mart.
reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view
the facts of the case in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. On October 5, 2015, Plaintiff entered the
Wal-Mart store and retrieved a buggy [Plaintiff's aff.
¶ 2-3, Doc. 32-1]. As she walked past a flower display
case, she slipped and fell in a puddle of liquid on the floor
soaking her pants [Plaintiff's dep. Doc. 37-1, Page ID #
164-65; Plaintiff's aff. ¶ 6, Doc. 32-1]. She did
not see any signs warning that the floor was wet
[Plaintiff's aff. ¶ 11, Doc. 32-1]. Two customers
helped her stand up from the floor and one notified
“the doorman” [Plaintiff's dep. Doc. 37-1,
Page ID # 164; Plaintiff's aff. ¶ 7, Doc. 32-1]. The
doorman did not call for help [Plaintiff's aff. ¶ 9,
Doc. 32-1]. Plaintiff waited until the following day to
report the fall to store management because she did not
realize she was injured until the evening of October 5, 2015
[Plaintiff's dep., Doc. 28-1, Page ID # 109;
Plaintiff's aff. ¶ 10, Doc. 32-1]. She did not know
the origin of the liquid which caused her to slip, nor did
she know how long the liquid had been on the floor
[Plaintiff's dep., Doc. 37-1, Page ID # 164-65].
addition to briefing the issues, Wal-Mart submitted four
separate “video clips” in support of its motion
for summary judgment. At the April 3, 2018 hearing, the
parties agreed that video clip 3, which is 3 minutes and 33
seconds in length, was the video depicting events relevant to
this case. This video clip depicts an overhead view of a
portion of the store looking down the aisle in front of the
cashier stations. The specific area where Plaintiff fell is
located behind a display case, which obfuscates any view of
the floor where Plaintiff slipped. Thirteen seconds into the
video, the front of a buggy, which Plaintiff asserts is her
buggy, appears at the end of the aisle where Plaintiff fell.
Only the front of the buggy is visible, while a view of the
rest of the buggy, as well as Plaintiff, is obscured by the
display case. The video appears to reflect that two people
stop and turn their attention toward the display case. The
parties are in agreement that this point in the video clip
probably represents the moment when Plaintiff fell and other
people came to help her. However, Plaintiff's fall cannot
be seen on the video because it is blocked by the display
Standard of Review
Civ. P. 56(c) provides that summary judgment will be rendered
if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The
burden is on the moving party to show that no genuine issue
of material fact exists, and the Court must view the facts
and all inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986);
Morris v. Crete Carrier Corp., 105 F.3d 279, 280-81
(6th Cir. 1997); 60 Ivy Street Corp. v. Alexander,
822 F.2d 1432, 1435 (6th Cir. 1987). The moving party may
satisfy its burden by presenting affirmative evidence that
negates an element of the nonmoving party's claim or by
demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323-35 (1985); Rodgers v. Banks, 344 F.3d 587,
595 (6th Cir. 2003). There are “no express or implied
requirements in Rule 56 that the moving party support its
motion with affidavits or other similar materials
negating the opponent's claim;” it is
enough for the movant to “point[ ] out” an
absence of evidence on an essential element of the
non-movant's claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-25;
see also Harvey v. Campbell Cnty, Tenn., 453
Fed.Appx. 557, 560 (May 10, 2011).
the moving party has fulfilled his initial burden under Rule
56, the nonmoving party is not entitled to a trial merely on
the basis of allegations. The nonmoving party is required to
“go beyond the pleadings and by his own affidavits, or
by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex,
477 U.S. at 324-25; see also 60 Ivy Street, 822 F.2d
at 1435. The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if
the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an
essential element of its case with respect to which it has
the burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323;
Collyer v. Darling, 98 F.3d 211, 220 (6th Cir.
judge's function at the point of summary judgment is
limited to determining whether sufficient evidence has been
presented to make the issue of fact a proper jury question,
and not to weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of
witnesses, or determine the truth of the matter. Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); 60
Ivy Street, 822 F.2d at 1435-36.
brings a claim for negligence against Wal-Mart alleging
Wal-Mart was negligent in allowing liquid to puddle in front
of the flower display case, in failing to inspect the area in
a timely manner, and in failing to warn Plaintiff about the
existence of liquid on the floor.
diversity jurisdiction case such as this one, the Court must
apply the substantive law of the forum state. Kepley v.
Lanz, 715 F.3d 969, 972 (6th Cir. 2012);
Pennington v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 553
F.3d 447, 450 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Erie R.R. Co. v.
Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)). In doing so, the
court must “follow the decisions of the state's
highest court when that court has addressed the relevant
issue.” Kepley, 715 F.3d at 972 (quoting
Savedoff v. ...