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Dever v. Family Dollar Stores of Georgia, LLC

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

December 20, 2017

PATRICIA D. DEVER, Plaintiff,
v.
FAMILY DOLLAR STORES OF GEORGIA, LLC and DARRYL MARTIN, individually and as employee and agent of Family Dollar Stores of Georgia, LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER

          HON .LISA GODBEY WOOD, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Darryl Martin and Family Dollar Stores of Georgia, LLC's ("Family Dollar") Motions for Summary Judgment. Dkt. Nos. 25, 27. Plaintiff opposes Family Dollar's Motion but does not oppose Martin's Motion. These Motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for review. For the following reasons, both Motions are GRANTED.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On March 13, 2015, Plaintiff Dever and her friend, Linda Odom, woke up to a rainy morning in Brunswick, GA. Dkt. No. 27- 5/29-1 ¶ 1; Dkt. No. 27-2, 10:4-9. Plaintiff wanted a poncho for the day's planned activities. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 10; Dkt. No. 27-2, 10:7-9; Dkt. No. 27-3, 45:5. So, Plaintiff and Odom went to Family Dollar to purchase one. Id. Family Dollar was just a few doors down from the hotel where Plaintiff was staying. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 2; Dkt. No. 27-3, 41:6-8. Plaintiff and Odom got into Plaintiff's car, and Plaintiff drove to the Family Dollar parking lot. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 11; Dkt. No. 27-2, 12:15; Dkt. No. 27-3, 44:16-23. It was still raining when they parked in front of the store. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 12; Dkt. No. 27-2, 14:2-6. Odom entered the store first. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 12; Dkt. No. 14:1-6, 15:3; Dkt. No. 27-3, 47:19. Shortly after Odom entered the store, Plaintiff exited the car and walked through the rain into the store. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 14; Dkt. No. 27-2, 17:1-4; Dkt. No. 27-3, 47:8-15. Plaintiff was wearing flip flops and talking on her cell phone with a friend. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 15; Dkt. No. 27-3, 45:21-25. When she entered the store, she noticed some water on the floor just inside the doorway. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 16; Dkt. No. 27-3, 49:19-25, 50:3. Plaintiff stated in her deposition that she stepped on the concrete floor adjacent to the water on the floor but did not step in the water itself. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶¶ 18-19; Dkt. No. 27-3, 51:14-16, 51:1-6. While stepping on the floor next to the water and ending her phone call, Plaintiff's right foot slipped out from under her, and she fell to the floor. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 20; Dkt. No. 27-3, 49:1-11, 53:1, 52:9-16. Plaintiff does not know what caused her to fall. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 21; Dkt. No. 27-3, 61:1.

         On the day of the incident, non-party Deon Manning was the manager of the Family Dollar and was present that morning. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 4; Dkt. No. 27-4, 8:18-25. After Dever fell, Manning called 911 to obtain help for her. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 22; Dkt. No. 27-4, 24:9-15. He then took photos of the area and reviewed video footage of the incident. Dkt. No. 27-5/29-1 ¶¶ 23-24; Dkt. No. 27-4, 24:16-18, 55:10-16.

         Earlier that morning, Manning had opened the store and placed a wet floor sign in the front area of the store. Dkt. Nos. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 27-4, 25:18-25. The front of the store had a set of double doors. Dkt. Nos. 27-5/29-1 ¶ 7; Dkt. No. 27-4, 26:1-5, 28:22-25, 29:1-4. The left hand door had a mat in front of it, but there was no mat in front of the right hand door. Id.

         Plaintiff filed a premises liability action against Martin and Family Dollar in the State Court of Glynn County on January 11, 2017. Dkt. No. 1-1. She alleges that she had fallen "on a liquid substance" at the Family Dollar and sought special damages in excess of $62, 000 plus damages for pain and suffering and other medical expenses and special damages. Id. ¶ 8. Defendants removed the action to this Court on February 15, 2017. Dkt. No. 1.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate only when the pleadings, depositions, and affidavits submitted by the parties show that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The court should view the evidence and any inferences that may be drawn in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970). The party seeking summary judgment must first identify grounds that show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). The burden then shifts to the nonmovant, who must go beyond the pleadings and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue of material fact does exist. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986). The Court is mindful that "'routine' issues of premises liability, i.e., the negligence of the defendant and the plaintiff, and the plaintiff's lack of ordinary care for personal safety are generally not susceptible of summary adjudication, and that summary judgment is granted only when the evidence is plain, palpable, and undisputed." Robinson v. Kroger Co., 493 S.E.2d 403, 414 (Ga. 1997).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Martin's Motion for Summary Judgment

         Plaintiff Dever filed this premises liability case against both Family Dollar and Martin. Plaintiff sued under O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1, which gives an invitee on certain premises a cause of action against the owner or occupier of the premises. See Poll v. Deli Mgmt., Inc., 2007 WL 2460769, *4 (N.D.Ga. 2007) ("As its language indicates, liability may only be imposed under O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 against an owner or occupier of the subject premises."). Whether a person is an owner or occupier of certain premises is a question that can be decided as a matter of law. Food Giant, Inc. v. Witherspoon, 359 S.E.2d 223, 225 (Ga.Ct.App. 1987).

         Defendant Martin did not even work at the store at the time of the fall. Understandably, "Plaintiff does not oppose the grant of summary judgment to Defendant Darryl Martin." Dkt. No. 29-2, p. 1. Therefore, the Court GRANTS Martin's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         II. Family Dollar's Motion ...


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