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Sonya Diamond v. Publix Super Markets, Inc

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

December 14, 2017




         Before the Court is. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc, 17.) For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is GRANTED. As a result, Plaintiff's complaint is DIMISSSED. (Doc. 1, Ex. A.) The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to close this case.


         This case arises from an incident in which a customer at a local Publix tripped and fell over a scale located near the store's entryway. On or about January 21, 2015, Plaintiff Sonya Diamond was shopping at Defendant's grocery store located on 5500 Abercorn Street, Suite #2, Savannah, Georgia, 31405. (Doc. 1, Ex. A ¶ 5.) After Plaintiff paid for her groceries, one of Defendant's employees took Plaintiff's groceries and shopping cart and began walking with . Plaintiff to her vehicle. (Doc. 17, Attach. 1 at 56-57.) Because of the brightness of the sun, Plaintiff removed her bifocal lenses and began to look for her sunglasses in her purse as she walked behind the employee. (Id. at 58.) As Plaintiff continued to follow the employee out of the store, Plaintiff tripped and fell forward over a scale located near the store's exit. (Id.) Plaintiff later testified that while she did not see the scale when she tripped over it, nothing interfered with her ability to see in front of her. (Id. at 57.)

         Before her injury, Plaintiff had previously shopped at the same Publix at least once a week since the store's opening. (Id. at 54.) Plaintiff was aware from these previous shopping trips of the scale and its location. (Id. at 79.) She testified that she typically passed the scale on her normal path to enter and exit the store. (Id.) Plaintiff even admitted to previously using the scale. (Id. at 59.)

         Plaintiff initially brought suit in the State Court of Chatham County seeking relief for her injuries caused by the fall. On February 17, 2017, Defendant removed the case to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 1.) Defendant is now seeking summary judgment. (Doc. 17.) In its motion, Defendant claims that there is no genuine dispute of material fact in this case that would allow Plaintiff to prevail on her premise liability claim. Specifically, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claim must fail because the scale was open and obvious, and, alternatively, Plaintiff failed to act with reasonable care in avoiding the scale. Plaintiff has responded by arguing that certain conditions on the day of the incident inhibited her view of the scale, negating any claim that the scale was open and obvious, and that she did act with reasonable care.



         According to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), "[a] party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim of defense-on which summary judgment is sought." Such a motion must be granted "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." Id. The "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.' " Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 advisory committee notes).

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the nonmovant "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The substantive law governing the action determines whether an element is essential. DeLong Equip. Co. v. Wash. Mills Abrasive Co., 887 F.2d 1499, 1505 (11th Cir. 1989). As the Supreme Court explained:

[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its imotion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The burden then shifts to the nonmovant to establish, by going beyond the pleadings, that there is a genuine issue as to facts material to the nonmovant's case. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991) .

         The Court must review the evidence and all reasonable factual inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587-88. However, the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Id. at 586. A mere "scintilla" of evidence, or simply conclusory allegations, will not suffice. See, e.g., Tidwell v. Carter Prods., 135 F.3d 1422, 1425 (11th Cir. 1998). Nevertheless, where a reasonable fact finder may "draw more than one inference from the facts, and that inference creates a genuine issue of material fact, then the Court should refuse to grant summary judgment." Barfield v. Brierton, 883 F.2d 923, 933-34 (11th Cir. 1989).

         II. PREM ...

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