Bradley v. Wal-Mart Stores, E., LP, NO. 1:12-0045

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtJULIET GRIFFIN
Decision Date18 February 2014
Docket NumberNO. 1:12-0045


NO. 1:12-0045


Dated: February 18, 2014


Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73(b), the parties in this action have consented to have the Magistrate Judge conduct any and all further proceedings in the action, including the entry of a final judgment. See Docket Entry Nos. 12-13.

Presently pending before the Court is the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket Entry No. 27), to which the Plaintiff has filed a Response (Docket Entry No. 33). Also before the Court is the Defendant's Reply (Docket Entry No. 37). For the reasons set out below, the Defendant's motion will be granted.


The Plaintiff is a resident of Tennessee. On May 4, 2011, she was a customer in the Wal-Mart Store ("the Store") in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, when she slipped on a liquid that was on the tiled floor of the Store and fell. She suffered injuries as a result of the fall which have required medical treatment and have limited her ability to earn a living. On May 1, 2012, the Plaintiff filed an action in the Circuit Court for Lawrence County, Tennessee, against the Defendant seeking no less than $250,000.00 in damages based on a claim that the Defendant was negligent in failing to keep the walkways of the Store free of hazards to its customers. The action was removed to this

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Court by the Defendant on May 31, 2012, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. See Docket Entry No. 1. The parties have engaged in discovery, and the action is set for a trial by jury.

The parties agree that the Plaintiff fell at approximately 1:45 p.m. that day and that she fell in the area behind checkout line #5 at the Store, which is located in what the Defendant refers to as "Action Alley," a term describing an open area that runs throughout the Store and encompasses the open area behind the row of checkout registers. Although this area is videotaped in the regular course of business, because of the angle and field of view of the cameras, there was no surveillance video of the exact spot where the Plaintiff fell and no video of the actual fall.2 Four still photographs of the floor with the liquid on it were taken after the Plaintiff's fall and show the presence of a liquid on the floor. See Docket Entry No. 32. The type of liquid was never identified through testing and the Plaintiff only describes it as "sticky" and that it did not look like "a drink or water."3 However, the Defendant's employees who observed the liquid after the Plaintiff fell believed it to be "chicken juice," referring to the juice that is present with raw chicken, and there has been no other proof offered by the Defendant indicating that the liquid was anything other than chicken juice.4

It is undisputed that there is no evidence showing that any employee of the Defendant caused the liquid to be on the floor or that any employee of the Defendant actually knew that the liquid was

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on the floor prior to the Plaintiff's fall. See Plaintiff's Response to the Defendant's Statement of Material Facts (Docket Entry No. 34), at ¶¶ 2-3.

There is no conclusive evidence of how the liquid came to be on the floor, although both parties theorize that the liquid more than likely dripped out of a package of raw chicken that another customer had purchased at checkout line #5 prior to the Plaintiff's fall. It is undisputed that the record of cash register receipts for register #5 shows that at least ten customers purchased raw chicken at register #5 at some point between 11:47 a.m. and 1:25 p.m. See Docket Entry No. 34, at ¶ 6; Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Statement of Additional Material Facts (Docket Entry No. 38), at ¶¶ 5-13. In much the same manner as there is no conclusive evidence about where the liquid came from, there is no conclusive evidence of how long the liquid was present on the floor prior to the Plaintiff's fall. It is undisputed that there is no evidence of any person observing the liquid prior to the Plaintiff's fall. The area of the fall was cleaned by the Defendant's maintenance employees at approximately 12:00 p.m. on the day in question,5 suggesting that the liquid was not present at that time. According to the deposition testimony of the Defendant's employees, the employees are trained to conduct safety sweeps and to promptly address potentially dangerous conditions and that two to three customer service managers are normally monitoring the Action Alley.6 However, there are no logs in the record memorializing the time of any visual inspection of the area surrounding the Plaintiff's fall. Jeremy Rhodes, the former Asset Protection Manager at the Store, attested in his affidavit that his review of the video surveillance footage did not show any Store employees in the area surrounding the Plaintiff's fall in the twenty minutes preceding the fall.7

Although the Plaintiff argues that "the unequivocal proof is that the defendant knows from where the substance came and how long prior to the fall it was on the floor," see Plaintiff's

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Memorandum (Docket Entry No. 5), the Court does not agree. Although Mr. Rhodes offered testimony in his deposition that the chicken juice came from the customer who brought chicken through checkout line #5 approximately 20 minutes prior to the Plaintiff's fall,8 he acknowledged that there was no direct proof of where the chicken juice came from and the record contains no conclusive proof of where the chicken juice in question came from. The Court finds that the Defendant has not made, through either the testimony of Mr. Rhodes or the argument made in its supporting memorandum, an admission regarding the specific source of the chicken juice or how long the chicken juice had been present on the floor prior to the Plaintiff's fall.


A motion for summary judgment is reviewed under the standard that summary judgment is appropriate 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." Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A "genuine issue of material fact" is a fact which, if proven at trial, could lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In considering whether summary judgment is appropriate, the Court must "look beyond the pleadings and assess the proof to determine whether there is a genuine need for trial." Sowards v. Loudon Cnty., 203 F.3d 426, 431 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 875, 121 S.Ct. 179, 148 L.Ed.2d 123 (2000). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence and all inferences drawn from underlying facts "in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., Ltd., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Gribcheck v. Runyon, 245 F.3d 547, 550 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 896, 122 S.Ct. 217, 151 L.Ed.2d 155 (2001).

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The moving party has the burden of showing the absence of genuine factual disputes from which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. However, "[t]he moving party need not support its motion with evidence disproving...

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