United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division
LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Winn Dixie Stores, Inc.'s Motion
for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 40). After reviewing the
pleadings, briefs, affidavits, and other evidentiary
materials presented, and with the benefit of oral argument,
the Court determines that there are genuine issues of
material fact that must be resolved by a jury. The Court
accordingly DENIES Defendant's motion.
undisputed material facts viewed in the light most favorable
to Plaintiff are as follows:
October 7, 2014, Plaintiff Ronald Castleberry entered
Defendant Winn Dixie Stores, Inc.'s Bemiss Road location
in Valdosta, Georgia to fill a prescription. (Doc. 42, p.
21-22). Plaintiff filled prescriptions at the store at least
once a month. (Id. at p. 22). Plaintiff entered the
grocery store and went directly to the pharmacy, where he
handed his prescription to the pharmacy technician.
at p. 25). He was told that it would take approximately
fifteen minutes to fill his prescription. (Id.; Doc.
43, p. 43). Plaintiff took a seat in one of the chairs
located in the pharmacy waiting area. (Doc. 42, p. 25).
Plaintiff had sat in the same set of chairs on numerous other
occasions, though he cannot say whether he ever sat in the
exact same chair. (Id. at p. 35). There was another
woman in the pharmacy area sitting in a similar chair.
(Id. at p. 30-31). Plaintiff did not notice anything
unusual about the chair in which this other person was
sitting. (Id. at p. 31).
testified that he sat in the chair as he normally would sit,
with his feet planted on the floor and his back against the
seat back. (Id. at p. 30-31; Doc. 43, p. 47).
Plaintiff explained that as a result of prior injuries to his
back, he has difficulty sitting forward or leaning back and
that he tries to sit up straight to alleviate any pressure.
(Doc. 42, p. 30-31). When the pharmacy notified Plaintiff
that his prescription was ready, he grasped the arms of the
chair, leaned forward, and pushed himself up from a seated
position. (Doc. 42, p. 33; Doc. 43, p. 48-49). As he rose,
the chair shot out from under him. (Doc. 42, p. 26, 33; Doc.
43, p. 49). Plaintiff testified that he “went straight
down and landed on my butt - my tailbone, and when I hit my
tailbone, it just felt like it just jarred my whole insides,
and I just went on down flat on the floor.” (Doc. 42,
p. 37). While he was falling, Plaintiff did not know what
caused the chair to shoot out from under him. (Id.
at p. 34). After the fall, however, he noticed holes in the
bottom of the chair where rubber stoppers should have been.
(Doc. 42, p. 36).
was able to get up unassisted. (Id. at p. 37). He
stood up, took a minute to steady himself, and then walked to
the counter to collect his prescription. (Id.). The
pharmacy technician asked if he was okay. (Id.).
Plaintiff replied that he thought he was fine and that he
just wanted to leave the store because he was embarrassed.
(Id.). Plaintiff did not realize that he was injured
until several hours after the incident, when he stated he
“started having a lot of pains in my leg and in the
center of my back, and I just started hurting so bad I
couldn't even lay down on it.” (Id. at p.
40). The next morning, the store manager called and asked
Plaintiff to return to the store to complete an incident
report. (Id. at p. 37-38).
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as
a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine
issue of material fact arises only when “the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When considering a
motion for summary judgment, the court must evaluate all of
the evidence, together with any logical inferences, in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at
254- 55. The court may not, however, make credibility
determinations or weigh the evidence. Id. at 255;
see also Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc.,
530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).
argues that Plaintiff's negligence claims fail as a
matter of law because Plaintiff has not demonstrated that
there was a defect in the chair which caused his fall.
Additionally, Defendant contends that even if the chair was
defective, there is no evidence suggesting that Defendant had
either actual or constructive knowledge of any hazard. While
the evidence of a purported defect is limited, Plaintiff has
identified that the chair was missing some or all of its
rubber stoppers and that the missing stoppers contributed to
his fall. Plaintiff further avers that genuine issues of
material fact remain as to Defendant's knowledge of the
hazard, making summary judgment improper.
Georgia law, “[a]n owner or occupier of land has a
legal duty, enforceable by lawsuit, to exercise ordinary care
to keep and maintain its premises and the approaches in a
condition that does not pose an unreasonable risk of
foreseeable harm to the invited public.” American
Multi-Cinema, Inc. v. Brown, 285 Ga. 442 (2009);
O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 (“Where an owner or occupier of
land, by express or implied invitation, induces or leads
others to come upon his premises for any lawful purpose, he
is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by
his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises
and approaches safe.”). Nevertheless, a property owner
“is not an insurer of the safety of its invitees,
” and the “mere occurrence of an injury does not
create a presumption of negligence.” Kennestone
Hosp. v. Harris, 285 Ga.App. 393, 393-94 (2007)
(citation and punctuation omitted).
of an injury, without more, is not enough to establish a
proprietor's liability.” Ford v. Bank of
America Corp., 277 Ga.App. 708, 709 (citing Sams v.
Wal-Mart Stores, 228 Ga.App. 314, 316 (1997). In order
to recover in a slip and fall action, the injured party
“must prove (1) that the defendant had actual or
constructive knowledge of the hazard; and (2) that the
plaintiff lacked knowledge of the hazard despite the exercise
of ordinary care ...