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Sprinkle v. Lowe's Home Centers

July 19, 2006

WILLIAM SPRINKLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Lowe's Home Centers, Inc.'s (Lowe's) motion for summary judgment (Doc. 33). Plaintiff William Sprinkle (Sprinkle) has responded (Doc. 36) and Lowe's has replied (Doc. 38). Lowe's has also filed a motion to strike certain exhibits offered by Sprinkle (Doc. 37). Sprinkle has filed affidavits intended to authenticate the exhibits in question (Docs. 41 & 42). For the following reasons, the Court will deny both Lowe's motion to strike (Doc. 37), and Lowe's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 33).

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The Court construes all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396.

The moving party has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. If it meets this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth facts that demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996). The nonmoving party must do more than cast "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000). Rather, the nonmoving party must demonstrate to the Court that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in his favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Insolia v. Phillip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596 (7th Cir. 2000). Mere assertions of a factual dispute unsupported by probative evidence will not prevent summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-250.

BACKGROUND

I. Motion to Strike (Doc. 37)

As a preliminary matter, the Court must define what evidence it will consider when ruling on the motion for summary judgment. Lowe's has asked the Court to strike certain exhibits offered by Sprinkle on the grounds that they have not been properly authenticated. Sprinkle has filed two affidavits in an attempt to properly authenticate these documents. Anniethabatha M. Bond (Bond), a paralegal with Sprinkle's attorney, signed an affidavit attesting she received Exhibits D, E, F, M, O and P from Lowe's during the course of discovery. Sprinkle signed an affidavit attesting to personal knowledge as to the authenticity of Exhibit G.

The evidence a party relies upon to defeat a motion for summary judgment must be of a type that is admissible at trial. Haywood v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 323 F. 3d 524, 533 (7th Cir. 2003). Therefore, for purposes of summary judgment, the Court may only consider properly authenticated documents as evidence. Scott v. Edinburg, 346 F.3d 752, 759-760 (7th Cir. 2003).

"The requirement of authentication . . . as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims." Fed. R. Evid. 901(a). Generally speaking, the proponent of the proffered evidence need only make a prima facie showing that the exhibit is what the proponent claims it is. See United States v. Kelly, 14 F.3d 1169, 1175 (7th Cir. 1994). Furthermore, circumstantial evidence is sufficient to establish the authenticity of a document. United States v. Clark, 649 F.2d 534, 542 (7th Cir. 1981). The proponent may establish authenticity by showing that the "[a]ppearance, contents, substance, internal patterns, or other distinctive characteristics, taken in conjunction with circumstances" indicate that the evidence is what he purports it is. Fed. R. Evid. 901(b)(4). When a party has produced the document in question in response to a subpoena or discovery request, he has implicitly authenticated the document. United States v. Laurence, 934 F.2d 868, 871-72 (7th Cir. 1991). Additionally, the Court may consider the internal contents of the document, particularly if the events alluded to in the documents are only known to a small group of people. Fed. R. Evid. 901(b)(4); United States v. Smith, 223 F.3d 554, 570 (7th Cir. 2000).

A. Exhibit G

Exhibit G appears to be a copy of a decision handed down from the Appeals Division of the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The captioning, format and substance of the document seem to be that of a decision issued from a state agency. Sprinkle has submitted an affidavit attesting that he has personal knowledge that the document is a true and correct copy of a document provided to him by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. This is sufficient for a prima facie showing of authenticity.

B. Exhibits E, F, O & P

Exhibits E, F, O and P were all produced by Lowe's during discovery, as attested by Bond. Additionally, they appear to be documents of a type kept by a business such as Lowe's. The appearance of these documents in conjunction with the highly probative fact that they were produced by Lowe's during discovery is ...


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