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Maloy v. Target Corporation

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 7, 2017

KAREN MALOY, Plaintiff,
v.
TARGET CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. 3) AND DISMISSING CASE

          AVERN COHN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         This is a tort case. Plaintiff Karen Maloy is suing defendant Target Corporation (Target) for negligence involving a bottle of maple syrup and pancake mix falling off a shelf and hitting her. She alleges she suffered a closed head injury as a result.

         Before the Court is Target's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED. This case is DISMISSED.

         II. Background

         A. Procedural History Maloy filed her complaint in state court on August 24, 2015. There were substantial proceedings in state court, including Target filing a motion for summary disposition. However, the parties proceeded to case evaluation before the state court ruled on Target's motion. On August 31, 2016, Target received Maloy's case evaluation summary in which she claimed damages of $367, 858.70. Target then removed the case to federal court on September 12, 2016, within 30 days of receipt of her damages claim.

         B. Factual

         Maloy's version of the events is reflected only in her deposition testimony. On December 13, 2014, Maloy was at the Target store in Dearborn shopping with her daughter. Maloy reached overhead to get a bottle of syrup which was on a higher shelf. While doing so, she says a larger bottle of syrup and a large box of pancake mix fell from the shelf and stuck her in the head. At deposition, she testified that the bottle of syrup that fell on her may have landed in her shopping cart. As to the pancake mix, she testified at deposition that she first noticed it when “the box was on her arm.” Maloy testified several times that she was “stunned” after the incident and could not recall many details.

         Maloy's testimony does not indicate how the syrup and pancake mix were stacked on the shelf. One can presume from general knowledge, that both items were on shelves above her since Maloy says she was reaching overhead when they fell on her. However, it is not known which shelf they were on, whether they were on the same or different shelves, or how they were positioned on the shelves, i.e. was one item stacked one directly on top of the other? Also not in the record is how many shelves there were.

         There are two photographs in the record which are contained as still shots on the surveillance video Target provided. The first is of a bottom shelf which shows a price sign for pancake mix and some large boxes of pancake mix. There is a gap on the bottom shelf where a box of pancake mix would be placed. A second photo shows a large box of pancake mix on the same bottom shelf in the gap area from the first photo. The top of the box of pancake mix appears to be slightly damaged. Neither photo presents a clear picture of the shelves in question.

         The record also contains “A Guest Incident Report” completed by a Target employee. It describes Maloy's description of the events as follows: “reaching for pancake syrup a box of pancake mix and syrup hit the guest in the right temple.” In response to the question “What was the cause of the incident?” it states” “everything off the shelf came down on her head.” There is also a “Team Member Witness Statement” filled out by a Target employee. The statement reads: “Guest claimed a pancake mix hit her. A pancake box hit her in the head.” It goes on: “The pancake mix is on the bottom shelf and no product was disturbed. Video shows nothing hit her.” A video of the store area in question is also part of the record. The video is not of good quality and only shows Maloy in the extreme upper left corner. At best, it shows Maloy pushing a shopping cart, reaching overhead, and then bending down. No items are observed falling on Maloy. However, given the poor quality and other obstructions in the video, for purposes of the motion, the Court must accept Maloy's version of events, i.e. assume that a bottle of syrup and pancake mix fell on her based on her limited description.

         III. Analysis

         A. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party demonstrates that there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). There is no genuine issue of material fact when “the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the ...


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