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Duboise v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

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

March 22, 2017

Shirley A. Duboise, Plaintiff,
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Defendant.




         This case involves Defendant's denial of Plaintiff's claim for damages following a slip and fall accident that occurred at Defendant's Dearborn store on February 11, 2014. Plaintiff filed her action in, and Defendant removed the case from, Wayne County Circuit Court in early 2015. On June 6, 2016 Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. [#18] Plaintiff filed a response, and Defendant filed a timely reply. A hearing was held on August 31, 2016.


         Plaintiff lives in Florida but traveled to Michigan on Thursday, February 9, 2012, to attend a funeral. On February 11, 2012, Plaintiff drove to the Wal-Mart store located in Dearborn, Michigan, and parked near the store, not in a parking space. Plaintiff was wearing a black coat and black suit, and claims to have been wearing black boots with a heel. Plaintiff testified that it was snowing as she made her way into the store. She also testified it had snowed all day on Friday, February 10, 2016.

         Plaintiff entered through the front entrance of the store, and she testified that wet floor signs were out as she entered the store. Plaintiff went straight towards an aisle that had Valentine's Day items, and she testified that no wet floor signs were visible in that aisle. Plaintiff testified that she did not look at the floor while she was walking but was instead looking ahead, down the aisle. Dkt. No. 18, Ex. B at 60. As she approached the end cap of the aisle, she slipped and fell, injuring her right leg, shoulder, hip, and back. Plaintiff states that two of the four Defendant employees who were nearby helped her up, and one of them commented that Plaintiff had fallen because of the water on the floor. Id. at 61. Plaintiff testified that after her fall, she could see that the floor was “full of water” and that “there was a lot of water on the floor there.” Id. at 59, 69. She also testified that there “wasn't any water anywhere but in that area” and “. . . I fell into the water.” Id. at 60.

         Following the alleged incident, Plaintiff continued shopping, and then spoke with a Wal-Mart manager at the customer service desk. She brought the manager to the area of the alleged incident and explained what occurred. She claims four employees were there as well. Plaintiff obtained an incident report immediately following the incident, but did not fill it out at that time because she wanted to get to the funeral. Plaintiff left and drove herself and her family members to the funeral in Ferndale, Michigan.

         Following the funeral, Plaintiff drove her family members to get something to eat before driving herself back to the Wal-Mart store in Dearborn to fill out the incident report. After completing the incident report, Plaintiff left the store. She flew back to Florida on Sunday, February 12, 2016.


         A. Standard of Review

         Rule 56(a) of the Rules of Civil Procedures provides that the court “shall grant summary judgment 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). The presence of factual disputes will preclude granting of summary judgment only if the disputes are genuine and concern material facts. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” only if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. Although the Court must view the motion in light most favorable to the nonmoving party, where “the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenth Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Caterett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Summary Judgement must be entered against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be “no genuine issue as to any material face, ” since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23. A court must look at the substantive law to identify which facts are material. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         B. Analysis

         In this premises liability action, Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant negligently failed to design, construct and maintain its store free of a slippery substance on the floor or warn the public of its presence, which Defendant knew about. In Scott v. Kroger, No. 290696, 2010 WL 3184488 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug. 12, 2010), the court granted defendant's motion for summary disposition in a negligence and premises liability action arising out of the plaintiff slipping and falling on a puddle of water at defendant's store. In that action, the plaintiff “claim[ed] the water was nearly invisible and there was no sign or other indication that the floor was wet.” Id. at *1. In addressing that plaintiff's claim, the court of appeals stated:

Under open and obvious doctrine, when a plaintiff is a business invitee, the premises owner has a duty to use reasonable care to protect the plaintiff from dangerous conditions. Bertrand v. Alan Ford, Inc., 449 Mich. 606, 612-613, 537 N.W.2d 185 (1995). “However, where the dangers are known to the invitee or are so obvious that the invitee might reasonably be expected to discover them, an invitor owes no duty to protect or warn the invitee unless he should anticipate the harm despite knowledge of it on behalf of the invitee.” Id. To determine whether a danger is open and obvious, the courts consider “whether an average user with ordinary intelligence would have been able to discover the danger and the risk presented upon casual inspection.” Joyce v. Rubin, 249 Mich.App. 231, 238, 642 N.W.2d 360 (2002). ...

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