United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville Division
October 14, 2015, Anai Garcia slipped and fell in a puddle of
liquid on the floor of a Wal-Mart in Knoxville, Tennessee. On
October 13, 2016, she filed a complaint in Knox County
Circuit Court against Wal-Mart, seeking $100, 000 in
compensatory damages for her medical care and expenses, pain
and suffering, disfigurement, permanent disability, and loss
of capacity to enjoy life. Wal-Mart timely removed the suit to
this Court based on diversity of citizenship.
March 12, 2018, Wal-Mart filed a motion for summary judgment
[D. 21], which is now before the Court. In support of its
motion, Wal-Mart says that Garcia cannot establish a prima
facie negligence claim against it under a creation, actual
notice, or constructive notice theory of liability. Garcia
responded to the motion [D. 31], and Wal-Mart replied [D.
33]. For the reasons that follow, Wal-Mart's motion for
summary judgment will be granted.
judgment is proper only “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury
could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of
the suit under the governing law.” Id.
moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there
is no genuine issue of material fact on any element of the
other party's claim or defense. Stiles ex rel. D.S.
v. Grainger Cty., 819 F.3d 834, 847 (6th Cir. 2016). In
determining whether this burden is satisfied, the Court must
consider “the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, ” in the light most favorable to
the nonmovant, drawing all justifiable inferences in that
party's favor. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Adams v. Metiva, 31 F.3d 375,
378-79 (6th Cir. 1994).
the movant has satisfied its initial burden, the other party
must show that a genuine issue of material fact still exists.
Stiles, 819 F.3d at 847. In doing so, the non-moving
party may not rely on the pleadings alone, but must instead
point to “specific facts” in the record that
create a genuine issue for trial. Metiva, 31 F.3d at
378-79. Alternately, under Rule 56(d), “[i]f a
non-movant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for
specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential
to justify its opposition, the court may: (1) defer
considering the motion or deny it; (2) allow time to obtain
affidavits or declarations or to take discovery; or (3) issue
any other appropriate order.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). The
burden is squarely on the non-movant to inform the court of
its need for discovery. Scadden v. Werner, 677
Fed.Appx. 996, 999 (6th Cir. 2017). In addition to filing an
affidavit, the party making such a filing must specify
“what material facts it hopes to uncover, and why it
has not previously discovered the information.”
Cacevic v. City of Hazel Park, 226 F.3d 483, 488
(6th Cir. 2000). Even if this is shown, Rule 56(d) leaves the
decision to extend the discovery deadline within the
court's discretion. Scadden, 677 Fed.Appx. at
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court's
function is limited to determining “whether the
evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one
party must prevail as a matter of law.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52. The Court
need not scour the record “to establish that it is
bereft of a genuine issue of fact.” Street v. J.C.
Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir. 1989).
But the Court does not weigh evidence, judge witnesses'
credibility, or decide the truth of the matter, and any
genuine disputes of fact that do exist must be resolved in
favor of the nonmovant. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249;
Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1863 (2014).
Tennessee law, “[b]usiness proprietors are not insurers
of their patrons' safety.” Blair v. West Town
Mall, 130 S.W.3d 761, 764 (Tenn. 2004). Nevertheless,
“owners and occupiers of business premises have a duty
to exercise reasonable care to protect their customers from
unreasonable risks of harm.” Longmire v.
The Kroger Co. 134 S.W.3d 186 (Tenn. 2003). To prevail
on a claim against the owner or operator of a premises for
negligence in allowing a dangerous or defective condition to
exist on the premises, the plaintiff must prove that: (1) the
defendant caused or created the condition, or (2) the
defendant had actual or constructive notice that the
condition existed prior to the plaintiffs
injury. Blair, 130 S.W.3d at 764.
motion for summary judgment, Wal-Mart says that Garcia has
failed to establish a prima facie negligence claim because
there is no evidence in the record that anyone from Wal-Mart
caused the liquid to be on the floor, or that Wal-Mart had
actual or constructive notice of the spill prior to
Garcia's fall. The Court agrees. In fact, so does Garcia.
In her response to Wal-Mart's motion, Garcia admits that
she “has not yet been able to present evidence showing
how the liquid came to be on the floor, where it came from,
or how long it had been on the floor before [she]
slipped.” [D. 31, at 2]. But Garcia says that the lack
of evidence at this stage does not mean that such evidence
does not exist or that the underlying facts are not in
dispute. Accordingly, she asks the Court to deny
Wal-Mart's motion for summary judgment or defer
considering it until she has deposed certain Wal-Mart
employees and received Wal-Mart's response to her first
set of interrogatories and requests for production.
did not submit an affidavit or declaration setting forth the
reasons why she was unable to present facts to justify her
opposition to Wal-Mart's motion, as required by Rule
56(d). “The need to comply with Rule 56(d)
‘cannot be overemphasized.'” Scadden v.
Werner, 677 Fed.Appx. 996, 999 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Cacevic v. City of Hazel Park, 226 F.3d 483, 488
(6th Cir. 2000)). Consequently, the Sixth Circuit has held
that a plaintiffs failure to comply with Rule 56(d) is
“reason enough” to grant a motion for summary
judgment without allowing for more discovery. Id. at
in her April 30, 2018 response to Wal-Mart's motion,
Garcia does not address the fact that the discovery deadline
had passed twelve days earlier, on April 18 [D. 6,
She also offers no explanation for why she waited until April
30 to submit her first set of interrogatories and
requests for production from Wal-Mart in a case that has been
ongoing for more than a year and a half. Garcia has clearly
had sufficient opportunity to conduct discovery; she just
failed to use it. The Court thus declines to defer
consideration of Wal-Mart's motion for summary judgment,
and will turn to that motion now.
defendant moves for summary judgment, it may meet its initial
burden “by highlighting an absence of facts or evidence
to support a plaintiffs claim.” Id. (citing
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)).
Wal-Mart has done so here, thus shifting the burden to Garcia
to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Ellington v. City of E.
Cleveland,689 F.3d 549, 552 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Moldowan v. City of Warren,578 F.3d 351, 374 (6th
Cir. 2009)). Despite having ample time to conduct discovery,
Garcia has failed to present any evidence that
Wal-Mart caused the liquid to be on the floor, or that
Wal-Mart had actual or constructive knowledge of the spill
prior to Garcia's fall. Without any such evidence, a
reasonable jury could not return a verdict in her favor.
See Ogle v. Winn-Dixie Greeneville, Inc., 919 S.W.2d
45, 47 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1995) (“When ...