United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
David Hart went to the Walmart on Victory Drive in Columbus,
Georgia. It was a rainy day, and the sidewalk was wet. As
Hart entered the Walmart garden center door, he slipped and
fell. Hart brought this action against Walmart, arguing that
the entrance to the garden center was poorly designed and
that this poor design, combined with the rainwater, caused
him to fall. Walmart seeks summary judgment on Hart's
claims. As discussed below, Walmart's motion (ECF No. 9)
is granted in part and denied in part.
judgment may be granted only “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). In determining whether a genuine
dispute of material fact exists to defeat a motion
for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light
most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment,
drawing all justifiable inferences in the opposing
party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A fact is material if it
is relevant or necessary to the outcome of the suit.
Id. at 248. A factual dispute is genuine if
the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a
verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.
in the light most favorable to Hart, the record reveals the
following facts. Hart drove to the Walmart on Victory Drive
in Columbus, Georgia. He parked his car and walked to the
garden center. It was raining, and the sidewalk was wet. The
automatic doors to the garden center were turned off, and a
Walmart associate manually opened the doors for Hart. Hart
took one step inside the doors, slipped, and fell.
knew that it was raining, he knew that the sidewalk outside
the store was wet, he knew that the rainwater could be
tracked into the store, and he knew that a floor can be
slippery if it is wet. Hart presented evidence that the
walking surface leading into the garden center has a slight
downward slope toward a drain inside the door. And, there is
a transition from brush finish concrete to smooth finish
concrete. Hart testified that he expected a wet floor but did
not expect a “downhill slick floor.” Hart Dep.
53:14-24, ECF No. 11. According to Hart's expert witness,
an architect, the entrance to the garden center “does
not comply with minimum building code standards" because
of "walkway conditions that contain uneven floor levels,
non-uniform floor surface finishes, and non-uniform slip
resistance in an area where wet conditions are
expected." Barnes Aff. Ex. A, Inspection Report 2, ECF
No. 12-1 at 25.
surveillance video captured the following image of Hart's
Dep. Ex. 2, ECF No. 11 at 28.
Hart's Premises Liability Claim
recover on a theory of premises liability, a plaintiff must
show injury caused by a hazard on an owner or occupier of
land's premises or approaches that the owner or occupier
should have removed in the exercise of ordinary care for the
safety of the invited public.” Am. Multi-Cinema,
Inc. v. Brown, 679 S.E.2d 25, 27 (Ga.
2009). “‘In premises liability cases,
proof of a fall, without more, does not give rise to
liability on the part of a proprietor, ' because
‘[t]he true basis of a proprietor's liability for
personal injury to an invitee is the proprietor's
superior knowledge of a condition that may expose the
invitee to an unreasonable risk of
harm.'” Drew v. Istar Fin., Inc., 661
S.E.2d 686, 689 (Ga.Ct.App. 2008) (alterations in original)
(quoting Sunlink Health Sys. v. Pettigrew, 649
S.E.2d 532 (Ga.Ct.App. 2007)).
survive a summary judgment motion in a slip-and-fall case,
“a plaintiff must come forward with evidence that,
viewed in the most favorable light, would enable a rational
trier of fact to find that the defendant had actual or
constructive knowledge of the hazard.” Am.
Multi-Cinema, Inc., 679 S.E.2d at 28. “At that
point, the burden of production shifts to the defendant to
produce evidence that the plaintiff's injury was caused
by his or her own voluntary negligence (intentional disregard
of a known risk) or causal negligence (failure to exercise
ordinary care for one's personal safety).”
Id. “If the defendant succeeds in doing so,
the burden of production shifts back to the plaintiff to come
forward with evidence that creates a genuine dispute of fact