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Erdody v. Nitto, Inc.

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

February 28, 2018

DAVID ERDODY, Plaintiff,
v.
NITTO, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 16)

          LINDA V. PARKER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff David Erdody (“Plaintiff”) commenced this lawsuit against Defendant Nitto, Inc. (“Defendant”) in the Circuit Court for the County of Wayne, Michigan on January 10, 2017. Defendant removed this case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction on April 27, 2017. (ECF No.1.) Plaintiff alleges Defendant failed to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition. (Compl. at ¶ 5, ECF No. 1 at Pg ID 5.) Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment, filed August 17, 2017. (ECF No. 16.) Plaintiff did not file a response to Defendant's motion, although Plaintiff was aware[1] of the pending motion. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Defendant's motion.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         On January 10, 2014, Plaintiff, a driver for USF Holland, Corporation, was lawfully on Defendant's property to make a delivery. (Compl. at ¶¶ 3-4, ECF No. 1 at Pg ID 4-5.) Plaintiff testified that he frequently made pick-ups and deliveries at Defendant's property, used Defendant's loading dock and was familiar with the operation of the dock plate. (David Erdody Dep. 15:18-21, 17:11-16 Mot., Ex. 1, ECF No. 15 at Pg ID 40.)

         Plaintiff testified that on the day of the incident, it was snowing heavily and there was visible snow and ice on the dock plate. (Erdody Dep. 74:14-21, 75:11, 20-22, Mot., Ex. 1, ECF No. 15 at Pg ID 57-58.) Sometime after completing his delivery, Plaintiff slipped and fell on Defendant's dock plate. According to Plaintiff, Defendant allowed snow and ice to accumulate, creating a hazardous condition. (Compl. at ¶ 5, ECF No. 1 at Pg ID 5.) Because of the fall, Plaintiff sustained severe and disabling injuries, including a ruptured hamstring tendon. (Compl. at ¶ 7, ECF No. 1 at Pg ID 5.)

         On January 10, 2017, Plaintiff initiated this action against Defendant in state court for claims of negligence and nuisance. Plaintiff contends that even assuming the condition of the land was open and obvious, it was unavoidable in the course of employment. (Compl. at ¶ 6. ECF No. 1 at Pg ID 5.) Defendant properly removed this case to federal court on April 27, 2017.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary 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).

         The 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.

         “A 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-movant's favor. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255.

         III. Applicable Law & Analysis

         Although Plaintiff alleges negligence and nuisance, reading Plaintiff's Complaint as a whole, Plaintiff is complaining of the conditions of the land, and therefore, Plaintiff's Complaint sounds in premises liability. See Lymon v. Freedland, 887 N.W.2d 456, 462 (Mich. Ct. App. 2016) (“Michigan law distinguishes between claims arising from ordinary negligence and claims premised on the condition of the land.”) The duty that a possessor of land owes to another person who is on the land depends on the latter person's status.” Hampton v. Waste Mgmt. of Mich., Inc., 601 N.W.2d 172, 175 (1999). The parties agree that Plaintiff was lawfully on Defendant's premises as an invitee at the time of the accident. (See ECF Nos. 1 at Pg ID 4; ECF No. 4 at Pg ID 15.)

         “In general, a premises possessor owes 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., 629 N.W.2d 384, 386 (Mich. 2001). This duty arises where there is “an unreasonable risk of harm caused by a dangerous condition of the land that the landowner knows or should know the invitees will not discover, realize, or protect themselves against.” Bertrand v. Alan Ford, Inc., 537 N.W.2d 185, 186 (Mich. 1995) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). This duty does not extend, however, to dangerous conditions that are open and obvious unless special aspects of the condition make even an open and obvious risk unreasonably dangerous. Lugo, 629 N.W.2d at 386. As summarized by the Michigan Supreme Court:

[i]f the particular activity or condition creates a risk of harm only because the invitee does not discover the condition or realize its danger, then the open and obvious doctrine will cut off liability if the invitee should have discovered the condition and realized its danger. On the other hand, if the risk of harm remains unreasonable, despite its obviousness or despite knowledge of it by the invitee, ...

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