United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Gainesville Division
RICHARD W. STORY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the Court on Defendant Belk, Inc.'s Motion
for Summary Judgment . The Court has reviewed the record,
and, for the reasons below, Belk's Motion is
slip-and-fall case, Gearhart claims that the slick tile floor
in the Belk department store at her local mall was a hazard
that caused her to fall and injure herself. Though Gearhart
herself could not remember what caused her fall, and no one
saw any unusual substance on the floor, her husband, who
arrived a few minutes later, ran his hand along the floor and
found it to be slick.
she fell, Gearhart had not seen any employees in the area.
Previously, Gearhart had visited the Belk store dozens, if
not hundreds of times, all without incident. Belk hired an
expert who tested the floor at a later date and determined
that it surpassed appropriate standards for slickness.
standard for summary judgment is well-established. Summary
judgment 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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is improper, however,
“if 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);
Guevara v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., 920 F.3d 710, 720
(11th Cir. 2019).
moving party need not positively disprove the opponent's
case; rather, the moving party must establish the lack of
evidentiary support for the non-moving party's position.
See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325
(1986). If the moving party meets this initial burden, in
order to survive summary judgment, the non-moving party must
then present competent evidence beyond the pleadings to show
that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at
Georgia law,  a slip-and-fall plaintiff must establish
more than a fall on a slick surface to survive summary
judgment. Glynn-Brunswick Mem'l Hosp. Auth. v.
Benton, 693 S.E.2d 566, 568-69 (Ga.Ct.App. 2010). In
Glynn-Brunswick Mem'l Hosp., the Georgia Court
of Appeals faced facts very similar to these: a plaintiff
fell on a tile floor; she felt the floor after falling and
determined it was slick; but she could not identify any water
or foreign substance on the floor. Id. at 567-68.
The court explained, under the relevant legal principles, why
the plaintiff failed to establish her case:
Although an owner or occupier of land has a statutory duty to
keep its approaches and premises in a reasonably safe
condition for invitees . . . an owner or occupier of land is
not an insurer of the safety of its invitees. Thus, the
threshold point of inquiry in a slip and fall case is the
existence of a hazardous condition on the premises.
Proof of a fall, without more, does not create liability on
the part of a proprietor or landowner, because it is common
knowledge that people fall on the best of sidewalks and
floors. Where the plaintiff cannot show the existence of a
hazardous condition, she cannot prove the cause of her
injuries and there can be no recovery because an essential
element of negligence cannot be proven.
To create a question of fact as to the existence of a
hazardous condition, a plaintiff cannot rely upon
speculation and she must prove more than the existence of a
slick or wet floor. Guesses or speculation which raise
merely a conjecture or possibility of a hazardous condition
are not sufficient to create even an inference of fact for
consideration on summary judgment. Rather, the plaintiff
must produce evidence of ...