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Jaafar v. Home Depot USA, Inc.

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

December 19, 2017

SAMER JAAFAR, Plaintiff,
HOME DEPOT USA, INC., Defendant.


          Denise Page Hood, United States District Court Chief Judge


         On June 29, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. [Dkt. No. 14] The Motion has been fully briefed. The Court, having concluded that the decision process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, previously ordered that the motion be resolved on the motion and briefs submitted by the parties. E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(f)(2). [Dkt. No. 18] For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.


         Plaintiff has lived in Michigan most of his life and is familiar with Michigan weather. (Dkt. No. 14, Ex. 2 at 34-37). On November 17, 2014, Plaintiff slipped on a patch of black ice in the parking lot of Defendant's Dearborn, Michigan store. Plaintiff slipped as he exited his vehicle at approximately 8:04 a.m., resulting in serious back injuries.

         At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that “[w]hen I was driving in[, ] I noticed a few areas of ice . . .” Id. at 32. Plaintiff noticed “different areas of ice patches around, um, shiny areas on the ground too . . .” Id. Plaintiff also testified (moments later) that, as he drove from his home to the store, he “[did]n't recall” there being any snow or ice on the ground but that the weather was “a little gloomy.” (Dkt. No. 16, Ex. 1 at 33). When he pulled into Defendant's parking lot, it was “ten to fifteen” percent full, id. at 75, and “it was light enough where you didn't need [head]lights” - “daylight” but not “full daylight” because it was gloomy. Id. at 33-34. Plaintiff stated that he did not notice any ice as he pulled into his parking space, and it was only when he was getting up from his fall that he noticed any ice. Id. at 48. Photographs taken by Plaintiff approximately 30 minutes after Plaintiff fell show: (1) snow on Plaintiff's vehicle, the ground and the roof of Defendant's building; and (2) ice in the parking lot next to his vehicle, where he had fallen. (Dkt. No. 14, Ex. 6 (especially Deposition Exhibits B, F, G, I, and J)).

         Data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) show that: (a) temperatures had warmed above freezing in the 24 hours prior to the incident but dropped below freezing at the time of the incident; and (b) frozen and liquid precipitation had fallen in the Dearborn area during the 24 hours preceding the incident. (Dkt. No. 14, Ex. 3-5).


         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 maintain its parking lot free of black ice. To prevail on a premises liability action, a plaintiff must prove the following elements of negligence: (1) the defendant owed a duty; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) an injury proximately resulted from that breach; and (4) the plaintiff suffered damages. Benton v. Dart Properties, Inc., 270 Mich.App. 437, 440 (2006); Taylor v. Laban, 241 Mich.App. 449, 452 (2000). “[T]he existence of a legal duty is a question of law for the court to decide.” Anderson v. Wiegand, 223 Mich.App. 549, 554 (1997). “Unless the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff, the analysis cannot proceed further.” Bell & Hudson, PC v. Buhl Realty Co., 185 Mich.App. 714, 717 (1990).

         A premises possessor is not an absolute insurer of the safety of its invitees. Quinlivan v. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Inc., 395 Mich. 244 (1975). However, a premises possessor does owe “a duty to an invitee to exercise reasonable care to protect the invitee from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by a dangerous condition on the land.” Lugo v. Ameritech Corp., Inc., 464 Mich. 512, 516 (2001). There is no duty to protect an invitee against dangerous conditions that are open and obvious dangers, unless special aspects of a condition make even an open and obvious risk unreasonably dangerous. Watts v. Michigan Multi-King, Inc, 291 Mich.App. 98, 102 (2010).[1] The test to determine if a danger is open and obvious is whether an average user of ordinary intelligence would have been able to discover the danger and the risk presented upon casual inspection. Mann v. Shusteric Enterprises, Inc, 470 Mich. 320, 328 (2004); Joyce v. Rubin, 249 Mich.App. 231, 238 (2002).

         In Scott v. Kroger, 2010 WL 3184488 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug. ...

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