Miranda v. CSC Sugar, LLC, No. W2017-01986-COA-R3-CV

CourtCourt of Appeals of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtKENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE
Decision Date05 July 2018
Docket NumberNo. W2017-01986-COA-R3-CV


No. W2017-01986-COA-R3-CV


April 18, 2018 Session
July 5, 2018

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Tipton County
No. 7274
Joe H. Walker, III, Judge

This is a premises liability case. Appellant, a construction worker, fell from scaffolding while working in Appellee's factory. Specifically, Appellant ran an extension cord across the warehouse floor to reach an electrical outlet to power a screw gun used to install new sheetrock required in the warehouse renovation. Appellee's employee drove a forklift over Appellant's extension cord, entangling the cord and dislodging the scaffolding. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee finding that there were no disputes of material fact and that Appellee had no duty to warn Appellant of a dangerous condition that Appellant created. Because there are material factual disputes that preclude the grant of summary judgment, we reverse and remand.

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

KENNY ARMSTRONG, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. STEVEN STAFFORD, P.J., W.S. and ARNOLD B. GOLDIN, J., joined.

David A. Siegel and Jason J. Yasinsky, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Enoc Miranda.

Tom Corts and Andrea S. Freeman, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, CSC Sugar, LLC.


I. Background

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Appellant Enoc Miranda was an employee of Innovative Interior, a sub-contractor for Nightwine Construction, which was hired to renovate CSC Sugar, LLC's ("Appellee") warehouse. At the time of his fall, Appellant was using an electric screw gun powered by a one-hundred-foot extension cord to install a second layer of sheetrock on an interior wall. According to Appellant, the use of the extension cord was necessary because the only source of electricity was in a different part of the warehouse. It is undisputed that Appellant ran the extension cord across a doorway in order to access a working outlet. While Appellant and his brother were installing sheetrock, Appellee's employees were moving product through the doorway with a forklift.

Appellant and his brother had been hanging sheetrock at this location for three days prior to the accident. On the third day, Nick Cross, one of Appellee's employees, drove a forklift, in reverse, through the doorway. Mr. Cross allegedly saw neither the extension cord, nor the Appellant on the scaffolding. The extension cord became entangled in the forklift, pulling on the scaffolding and causing Appellant to fall approximately ten feet to the concrete below. On August 24, 2015, Appellant filed suit asserting that Appellee had a duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition, which it failed to do. Specifically, Appellant's complaint alleges that Appellee: (1) failed to properly maintain the premises under its care; (2) failed to properly inspect the premises under its care for dangerous conditions; and (3) failed to place warning signs at appropriate locations to warn of the dangerous condition of the premises under its care. On June 9, 2017, Appellee filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it had no duty to warn Appellant of the allegedly dangerous condition that Appellant created and controlled. On August 9, 2017, Appellant filed a response in opposition to Appellee's motion for summary judgment. Following a hearing, on September 6, 2017, the trial court entered an order granting Appellee's motion for summary judgment. The order states, in relevant part:

The undisputed facts show that [Appellant] or his co-employee . . . created the allegedly dangerous condition, and not [Appellee]. The [Appellee] had no duty to warn [Appellant] of the allegedly dangerous condition which [Appellant] or his co-employee created and knew about. Reasonable minds could not differ as to the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence, when viewed most favorably to the [Appellant], that the fault attributable to the [Appellant] is equal to or greater than the fault attributable to [Appellee].


The court finds that there are no contested issues of material fact. The [Appellee] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Appellant appeals.

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II. Issues

Appellant raises three issues for review as stated in his brief:

1. Whether the trial court erred in granting [Appellee]'s motion for summary judgment by finding that there are no contested issues of material fact in this matter.
2. Whether the trial court erred in granting [Appellee]'s motion for summary judgment by finding that [Appellee] did not create a dangerous condition on its premises.
3. Whether the trial court erred in granting [Appellee]'s motion for summary judgment by weighing the evidence to determine the comparative fault of the parties through summary judgment.

III. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.04. We review a trial court's ruling on a motion for summary judgment de novo, without a presumption of correctness. Rye v. Women's Care Center of Memphis, MPLLC, 477 S.W.3d 235, 250 (Tenn. 2015); Dick Broad. Co., Inc. of Tenn. v. Oak Ridge FM, Inc., 395 S.W.3d 653, 671 (Tenn. 2013); Kinsler v. Berkline, LLC, 320 S.W.3d 796, 799 (Tenn. 2010); see also Abshure v. Methodist Healthcare-Memphis Hosp., 325 S.W.3d 98, 103 (Tenn. 2010); see also Bain v. Wells, 936 S.W.2d 618, 622 (Tenn. 1997). In doing so, we make a fresh determination of whether the requirements of Rule 56 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure have been satisfied. Rye 477 S.W.3d at 250 (citing Estate of Brown, 402 S.W.3d 193, 198 (Tenn. 2013); Hughes v. New Life Dev. Corp., 387 S.W.3d 453, 471 (Tenn. 2012)). The reviewing court must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all reasonable inferences in the non-moving party's favor. Akridge v. Fathom, Inc., No. E2014-00711-COA-R9-CV, 2015 WL 97946, at *4 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 7, 2015) (citing B & B Enter. of Wilson Cnty., LLC v. City of Lebanon, 318 S.W.3d 839, 844-45 (Tenn. 2010)) (internal citations omitted).

Tennessee law provides:

In motions for summary judgment in any civil action in Tennessee, the moving party who does not bear the burden of proof at trial shall prevail on its motion for summary judgment if it:

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(1) Submits affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim; or

(2) Demonstrates to the court that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim.

Tenn. Code Ann. §20-16-101. However, "a moving party seeking summary judgment by attacking the nonmoving party's evidence must do more than make a conclusory assertion that summary judgment is appropriate on this basis." Rye, 477 S.W.3d at 264. Rule 56.03 requires the moving party to support its motion with "a separate concise statement of the material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue for trial." Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.03. Each fact is to be set forth in a separate, numbered paragraph and supported by a specific citation to the record. Id. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden of production, the nonmoving party's burden is not triggered, and the court should dismiss the motion for summary judgment. Town of Crossville Hous. Auth., 465 S.W.3d 574, 578-79 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2014) (citing Martin v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 271 S.W.3d 76, 83 (Tenn. 2008)). However, if the moving party's motion is properly supported, "[t]he burden of production then shifts to the nonmoving party to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists." Hannan v. Alltel Publ'g. Co., 270 S.W.3d 1, 5 (Tenn. 2008) (citing Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208, 215 (Tenn. 1993)). The non-moving party may accomplish this by: "(1) pointing to evidence establishing material factual disputes that were overlooked or ignored by the moving party; (2) rehabilitating the evidence attacked by the moving party; (3) producing additional evidence establishing the existence of a genuine issue for the trial; or (4) submitting an affidavit explaining the necessity for further discovery pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.06." Martin v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 271 S.W.3d 76, 84 (Tenn. 2008) (citations omitted). As our Supreme Court has explained:

[T]o survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [its] pleading," but must respond, and by affidavits or one of the other means provided in Tennessee Rule 56, "set forth specific facts" at the summary judgment stage "showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.06. The nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 586, 106 S. Ct. 1348. The nonmoving party must demonstrate the existence of specific facts in the record which could lead a rational trier of fact to find in favor of the nonmoving party.

Rye, 477 S.W.3d at 265 (emphasis in original). If adequate time for discovery has been provided and the nonmoving party's evidence at the summary judgment stage is

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insufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial, then...

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