United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND
HONORABLE THOMAS L. LUDINGTON JUDGE.
23, 2018, Plaintiff Judy Koch-Gulotty filed a complaint
against Defendant R.L. Morgan Company, a hardware store. ECF
No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that while on Defendant's
premises she was “severely injured when she tripped and
fell due to a lawn edger that was sticking out into an aisle
in an extremely unsafe manner.” Id. at 2. On
March 5, 2019, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.
ECF No. 18. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion
will be granted.
to Plaintiff, on or about July 4, 2017, Plaintiff entered
Defendant's store. ECF No. 1 at 2. Defendant's
employee, Adam Podboy, greeted Plaintiff and led her down the
store's main aisle to help her locate an item. ECF No. 20
at 1. While walking down the main aisle, Mr. Podboy turned
left down an aisle that intersected the main aisle
perpendicularly. Id. Plaintiff followed Mr. Podboy
and tripped on a lawn edger “that was sticking out into
the aisle.” Id. at 2. Plaintiff claims that
her encounter with the edger left her with a wounded ankle
and a “meniscal tear resulting to [sic] a knee
replacement and other complications.” ECF No. 1 at 2.
23, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant,
alleging that it was liable for premises liability and
negligence. Id. at 2-6.
has now filed a motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 18. A
motion for summary judgment should be granted 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 moving party
has the initial burden of identifying where to look in the
record for evidence “which it believes demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
The burden then shifts to the opposing party who must set out
specific facts showing “a genuine issue for
trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (citation omitted). The Court must view
the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of
the non-movant and determine “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.” Id. at 251-52.
diversity cases like this one, federal courts “must
apply the substantive law of the state in which the court
sits.” Mill's Pride, Inc. v. Cont'l Ins.
Co., 300 F.3d 701, 704 (6th Cir. 2002). Thus, this Court
will apply Michigan's substantive laws. Accordingly, the
question is whether, viewing the evidence in a light most
favorable to Plaintiff, there are genuine issues of material
fact regarding his premises liability claim and negligence
law provides that, “[i]n a premises liability action, a
plaintiff must prove (1) that the defendant owed a duty to
the plaintiff, (2) that the defendant breached the duty, (3)
that the defendant's breach of the duty caused the
plaintiff's injuries, and (4) that the plaintiff suffered
damages.” Kennedy v. Great Atl. & Pac. Tea
Co., 274 Mich.App. 710, 712 (2007).
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., 464 Mich.
512, 516 (2001). “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.” Riddle v. McLouth Steel Prod. Corp.,
440 Mich. 85, 96 (1992). In other words, “[a] premises
possessor is generally not required to protect an invitee
from open and obvious dangers.” Kennedy, 274
Mich.App. at 713.
contends that Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed
because the edger was open and obvious and there were no
special aspects making the condition unreasonably dangerous
or effectively unavoidable. See generally ECF No.
18. Each of these arguments will be addressed in turn.
premises possessor “‘owes no duty to protect or
warn' of dangers that are open and obvious because such
dangers, by their nature, apprise an invitee of the potential
hazard, which the invitee may then take reasonable measures
to avoid.” Hoffner v. Lanctoe, 821 N.W.2d 88,
94 (2012) (quoting Riddle v. McLouth Steel Prod.
Corp., 440 Mich. 85 (1992)). It is an objective
standard, determining “[w]hether it is reasonable to
expect that an average person with ordinary intelligence
would have discovered it upon casual inspection.”
Id. at 94-95.
quotes three separate depositions to supports its argument
that the edger's placement was open and obvious. First,
it quotes Mr. Podboy's deposition, which provides:
Q: Okay. As one is walking down Aisle 1 from the main
entrance towards that end cap, ...