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King v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

August 27, 2014

JULIUS KING and CYNTHIA ROGERS, Plaintiffs,
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, LP, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Wal-Mart Stores East, LP's ("Defendant" or "Wal-Mart") Motion for Summary Judgment [21] and Motion to Strike [37].

I. BACKGROUND

On July 31, 2011, Julius King ("King"), his wife, Cynthia Rogers ("Rogers") (together, "Plaintiffs"), and their family were shopping at a Wal-Mart store in Atlanta, Georgia. (DSMF [21.1] ¶ 1). King was walking down a main aisle of the store behind his family members. (Id.). They took a left down a side aisle where drinks are located, and King continued walking straight on the main aisle to look at clothing for his daughter. (Id. ¶ 5-6). King took a few steps, realized he needed to find out his daughter's size, turned around, and started to walk down the main aisle toward his family when he slipped and fell on a puddle of liquid. (Id. ¶ 7). King's fall occurred at the intersection of the main aisle and the side aisle that his family had walked down, and they were standing at the opposite end of the side aisle when he fell. (Id. at ¶¶ 8, 10). A pallet of Sprite was located at the end of the side aisle near were King fell, and a 12-pack of Sprite was on the floor. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 29). Plaintiffs did not see the liquid or the 12-pack of Sprite on the floor before King fell. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31). Plaintiffs do not know the source of the liquid and they do not know when it was spilled or how long it had been on the floor before King fell. (Id. ¶¶ 32-36).

On July 23, 2013, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint [1.1] in the State Court of DeKalb County, Georgia. King asserts a claim for negligence, alleging that Defendant failed to keep its premises safe and failed to remove a hazard, and Rogers asserts a claim for loss of consortium.

On August 19, 2013, Defendant removed the DeKalb County action to this Court based on diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. (Notice of Removal [1]).

On February 14, 2014, Defendant moved for summary judgment. Defendant asserts that it maintains a reasonable inspection procedure, that the procedure was in place at the time of King's fall, and that a Wal-Mart employee actually inspected the area of King's fall within fifteen (15) to twenty (20) minutes of the accident and did not observe anything on the floor near where King fell.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard on Summary Judgment

A court "shall grant summary judgment 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). Parties "asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support that assertion by... citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute as to any material fact. Herzog v. Castle Rock Entm't , 193 F.3d 1241, 1246 (11th Cir. 1999). Once the moving party has met this burden, the non-movant must demonstrate that summary judgment is inappropriate by designating specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Graham v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co. , 193 F.3d 1274, 1282 (11th Cir. 1999). Non-moving parties "need not present evidence in a form necessary for admission at trial; however, [they] may not merely rest on [their] pleadings." Id.

The Court must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and must draw all inferences in favor of the non-movant, but only "to the extent supportable by the record." Garczynski v. Bradshaw , 573 F.3d 1158, 1165 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Scott v. Harris , 550 U.S. 372, 381 n.8 (2007)). "[C]redibility determinations, the weighing of evidence, and the drawing of inferences from the facts are the function of the jury...." Graham , 193 F.3d at 1282. "If the record presents factual issues, the court must not decide them; it must deny the motion and proceed to trial." Herzog , 193 F.3d at 1246. But, "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, " summary judgment for the moving party is proper. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

B. Legal Standard on a Negligence Slip-and-Fall Claim in Georgia

A plaintiff asserting a cause of action for negligence under Georgia law must establish (1) the existence of a duty on the part of the defendant, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages. Rasnick v. Krishna Hospitality, Inc. , 713 S.E.2d 835, 837 (Ga. ...


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