Stanley v. Morgan & Lindsey, Inc.

Decision Date23 October 1967
Docket NumberNo. 44546,44546
PartiesMrs. Ivey M. STANLEY v. MORGAN & LINDSEY, INC. and West Biloxi Realty Corporation.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

Sherman Muths, Jr., Gulfport, Lipscomb, Barksdale, Steen & Caraway, Jackson, for appellant.

Eaton, Cottrell, Galloway & Lang, Herbert J. Stelly, Sr., P. D. Greaves, Gulfport, for appellees.

RODGERS, Justice:

Appellant, Mrs. Ivey M. Stanley, was the plaintiff in the Circuit Court of Harrison County, Mississippi, in a suit against appellees, Morgan & Lindsey, Inc. and West Biloxi Realty Corporation, for personal injuries resulting from an accidental fall. At the conclusion of plaintiff's testimony, the trial judge, on motion of the defendants, directed the jury to find for defendants. The plaintiff has appealed to this Court, and complains that the facts presented to the trial court were sufficient to raise a jury issue of negligence, and that the trial court erred in refusing to permit the jury to determine the issue.

These facts are admitted by appellees and are not in dispute. Mrs. Ivey M. Stanley, a seamstress from Ft. Worth, Texas-while visiting her son, a major in the Air Force, at Biloxi, Mississippi-went to the Morgan & Lindsey store to make some purchases. Mrs. Stanley was accompanied by her daugher-in-law, Mrs. Delores Stanley. They parked their automobile in the large parking lot in front of the Morgan & Lindsey store and a supermarket. The store building and parking lot were owned by the defendant West Biloxi Realty Corporation. Pictures of the parking lot and the sidewalk in front of the two stores were introduced in evidence. The testimony shows that the cement sidewalk was ten feet wide and was elevated seven and one-half inches above the cement parking lot, constituting a curb between the parking lot and the sidewalk. The south side of the curb facing the parking lot was painted yellow, but none of the painted area was visible to customers going south from the store of Morgan & Lindsey. The appellant and her daughter-in-law, after having concluded their business, walked out of the store onto the sidewalk. The appellant, who was wearing bifocals, was walking behind her daughter-in-law. She was carrying in a bag the articles she had purchased. Mrs. Delores Stanley stepped down from the walk to the cement parking lot and proceeded toward the parked automobile. The appellant stopped after she reached the sidewalk, and looked for the automobile. It was then about noon, and the sun was shining brightly. She testified that 'it just looked like an illusion,' and that 'it looked like one big solid slab of concrete, all on the same level.' As she walked toward the automobile, she slipped off the sidewalk at the curb, fell and was seriously injured. She said that she knew the curb was there when she went into the store, but when she came out she did not see the curb or remember that it was there. She admitted that the curb or 'stepdown' was visible in the picture offered in evidence on behalf of the appellees, but stated that 'with the picture here that's where the walk is, but coming out there was nothing to show that.'

Mrs. Delores Stanley testified to facts similar to those detailed by the plaintiff, and to other events that occurred after the accident. The photographer identified the pictures, and the rest of the evidence was largely information as to the extent of the injuries.

The plaintiff argues on appeal that the testimony raised an issue for determination by the jury, because the action of the trial judge 'is in direct violation of Section 1455 of the Mississippi Code of 1942, recompiled, as amended, which provides the following: 'All questions of negligence and contributory negligence shall be for the jury to determine." This argument, of course, presupposes that the evidence showed that there was a question of negligence to be submitted to the jury.

Negligence is said to be: 'Omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or the doing of something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.' Bouvier's Law Dictionary 2312 (8th ed. 1914); Edwards v. Murphree, 249 Miss. 78, 160 So.2d 689 (1964). It is also pointed out that negligence is the result of the failure to perform a duty; therefore actionable negligence cannot exist in the absence of a legal duty to an injured plaintiff. 38 Am.Jur. Negligence § 12 (1941); Annot., 95 A.L.R.2d 1391 (1964); Georgia Cas. Co. v. Cotton Mills Products Co., 159 Miss. 396, 132 So. 73 (1931); Gulf, M. & N.R.R. v. Sparkman, 180 Miss. 456, 177 So. 760 (1938).

The plaintiff bases her claim against the defendants upon the theory that since the plaintiff was a customer of the defendant, Morgan & Lindsey, it was the duty of the operator of the business to exercise reasonable or ordinary care to keep the store premises in a reasonably safe condition for the use of its business invitees. There can be no doubt that this is the general rule throughout the United States (65 C.J.S. Negligence § 63(130) (1966)), and it is also the rule in this state. Gulfport Winn-Dixie, Inc. v. Taylor, 246 Miss. 332, 149 So.2d 485 (1963); Wallace v. J. C. Penney Co., 236 Miss. 367, 109 So.2d 876 (1959); Daniels v. Morgan & Lindsey, Inc., 198 So.2d 579 (Miss. 1967).

The declaration is not clear as to what duty the West Biloxi Realty Corporation owed the plaintiff, but it is assumed for the purpose of this opinion that this claim is based upon the legal proposition that the owner of a shopping center who retains possession and control of the premises or a parking lot, owes business invitees the duty to exercise reasonable care to maintain the shopping center parking lot in a reasonably safe condition. Lepnick v. Gaddis, 72 Miss. 200, 16 So. 213, 26 L.R.A. 686 (1894); 65 C.J.S. Negligence § 63(130) (1966).

It is true that while a business establishment maintains the sidewalk and parking lot for the use of its customers, it owes them the duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition and must exercise care for their safety. The owner of a business is not an insurer of the customers using the parking lot and sidewalks, and is not liable for injuries caused by conditions which are not dangerous or which are or should be known or obvious to the customer. 65 C.J.S. Negligence § 63(130) (1966). He is not required to keep the premises absolutely safe, or in such a condition that no accident could possibly happen to a customer. Miami Coin-O-Wash, Inc. v. McGough, 195 So.2d 227 (Fla.1967). We said in another 'slip and fall' case, Paramount-Richards Theatres v. Price, 211...

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55 cases
  • Ward v. Hobart Manufacturing Company
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • October 14, 1971
    ...a duty, therefore actionable negligence cannot exist in the absence of a legal duty to an injured plaintiff." Stanley v. Morgan & Lindsey, Inc., 203 So.2d 473, 475 (Miss.1967). 15 F.R.Civ.P. 52. The decisions of the Mississippi Supreme Court indicate that whether a duty exists in a negligen......
  • Foster by Foster v. Bass
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • December 19, 1990
    ...a duty; therefore, actionable negligence cannot exist in the absence of a legal duty to an injured plaintiff." Stanley v. Morgan & Lindsey, Inc., 203 So.2d 473, 475 (Miss.1967). Accord, Robinson v. Estate of Williams, 721 F.Supp. 806 (S.D.Miss.1989). The existence vel non of a duty of care ......
  • Karpovs v. State of Miss.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • December 11, 1981
    ...exist, the defendant must owe the plaintiff a legal duty. J. C. Penney Co. v. Sumrall, 318 So.2d 829 (Miss.1975); Stanley v. Morgan & Lindsey, Inc., 203 So.2d 473 (Miss.1967). We noted Mississippi's adoption of this universal principle in Ward v. Hobart Mfg. Co., 450 F.2d 1176 (5th Cir. A d......
  • Gorin v. City of St. Augustine
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • March 13, 1992
    ...there was no foreign object on the surface; and the curb was plainly visible. The Aventura opinion also cited Stanley v. Morgan & Lindsey, Inc., 203 So.2d 473 (Miss.1967), in which that court concluded that a step-off from a sidewalk curb was not inherently dangerous although the plaintiff ......
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