United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING, IN PART, DEFENDANTS'
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 32)
V. Parker, U.S. District Court Judge
Renata Peterson commenced this action in Michigan state court
alleging negligence against Defendants Outback Steakhouse,
Inc. and Bloomin' Brands, Inc. (collectively
"Defendants") for personal injuries that occurred
at their premises. Presently before the Court is
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 32.)
For the reasons that follow, the Court grants, in part,
Factual and Procedural History
30, 2014, Plaintiff and her family dined at Outback
Steakhouse in Shelby Township, MI. They arrived sometime
around dusk and dined for two to three hours. (ECF No. 32 at
Pg ID 349; ECF No. 36 at Pg ID 603.) Plaintiff exited the
restaurant approximately around 10:30 p.m. with her son and
grandson, while her husband used the facilities.
(Id.) As she was returning to her vehicle, Plaintiff
slipped and fell in the parking lot allegedly owned and
operated by Defendants. (ECF No. 1-2 at Pg ID 11.) According
to Plaintiff, grease had accumulated next to an underground
grease trap system, which caused her to fall and suffer
severe injuries. (Id. at Pg ID 11-12.) Plaintiff
testified that she did not see the grease prior to her fall,
and she did not see the grease when she entered the
restaurant. However, Plaintiff testified that she walked a
different path when she exited the restaurant. (ECF No. 32 at
Pg ID 350; ECF No. 32-2 at Pg ID 385.)
thereafter, Plaintiffs husband exited the restaurant and
witnessed Plaintiff on the ground. After helping her up and
showing her to a nearby bench, Plaintiffs husband went inside
the restaurant to inform the manager of the incident in the
parking lot. (ECF No. 32 at Pg ID 352; ECF No. 32-7 at Pg ID
484-85.) Arturo Word, the manager on duty, testified that
there was grease in the parking lot where Plaintiff had
fallen, which was located near the underground grease trap
to Larry LaFray, managing partner of Outback Steakhouse of
Florida, LLC, the grease trap system works in conjunction
with the plumbing system. (ECF No. 32 at Pg ID 356; ECF No.
32-4 at Pg ID 437.) Its purpose is to prevent food debris and
grease from entering the sewer system. On a monthly basis, a
third-party contractor, Dover Grease, services the trap
system and removes the accumulated grease. Mr. LaFray
testified that the grease overflow was a result of two pump
failures in the grease trap system. (ECF No. 32 at 356-57.)
Word testified that included in the manager's daily
opening checklist is an inspection of the parking lot. (ECF
No. 32 at Pg ID 357; ECF No. 32-11 at Pg ID 537.)
Additionally, throughout the day as shifts change, employees
scan the parking lot for any unsafe conditions.
(Id.) There was no testimony that anyone had seen
grease in the parking lot prior to Plaintiffs fall, as well
as to how long the grease had been in the parking lot prior
to Plaintiffs fall.
this incident, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants in the
Circuit Court for the County of Macomb on October 8, 2015.
(ECF No. 1 at Pg ID 2.) Defendants filed a Notice of Removal
to this Court on November 12, 2015. On August 16, 2017,
Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing (1)
Defendants did not have actual or constructive notice of the
alleged condition of the parking lot; (2) the alleged
condition of the parking lot was open and obvious; (3)
Defendant Outback Steakhouse, Inc. is not an entity, and
therefore, is an improper party; and (4) Defendant
Bloomin' Brands did not have possession and control of
the parking lot. (ECF No. 32.) Plaintiff filed a response on
October 9, 2017, and Defendants filed a reply on November 1,
2017. (ECF Nos. 32 & 39.)
Standard of Review
judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is
appropriate "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 central inquiry is "whether the evidence
presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a
jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must
prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). After adequate
time for discovery and upon motion, Rule 56 mandates summary
judgment against a party who fails to establish the existence
of an element essential to that party's case and on which
that party bears the burden of proof at trial. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
movant has the initial burden of showing "the absence of
a genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 323.
Once the movant meets this burden, the "nonmoving party
must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Electric Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To
demonstrate a genuine issue, the nonmoving party must present
sufficient evidence upon which a jury could reasonably find
for that party; a "scintilla of evidence" is
insufficient. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252.
party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely
disputed" must designate specifically the materials in
the record supporting the assertion, "including
depositions, documents, electronically stored information,
affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions,
interrogatory answers, or other materials." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(1). The court must accept as true the non-movant's
evidence and draw "all justifiable inferences" in
the non-mo vant's favor. See Liberty Lobby, 477
U.S. at 255.
Applicable Law & Analysis
initial matter, the Court granted Plaintiffs motion to amend
(ECF No. 35) to add the proper party, Outback Steakhouse of
Florida, LLC. As such, Defendants' arguments, absent the
claims of possession and ...