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Morrison v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

December 22, 2016

TONI M. MORRISON, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          JONATHAN E. HAWLEY U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Defendant, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.'s (“Wal-Mart”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 17).[1] The Motion is fully briefed, and for the reasons stated, infra, Defendant's motion is DENIED.[2]

         I.

         The Plaintiff,, Toni Morrison (“Morrison”), tripped over a floor mat and fell while at Defendant's East Peoria store in April 2014. She seeks monetary damages for injuries she alleges she sustained as a result of her fall. The circumstances of the incident were captured on video and are, largely, undisputed.

         Plaintiff was shopping in the produce department of Defendant's store with family members. Between approximately 11:16 A.M. and 11:19 A.M., customers walked over a floor mat creating a pronounced “bubble” or “bump” in it. (D. 17-3 at pg. 15) Plaintiff walked over the mat, with its protrusion, several times between approximately 11:28 A.M. and 11:36 A.M. At 11:36:06 A.M., Plaintiff fell after tripping over the bump.

         Plaintiff does not contend there was any condition aside from the buckled floor mat which caused her fall. The mat Plaintiff tripped over was black and the surrounding floor was white. The mat had no known defects. The lighting in the area was sufficient and Plaintiff's view of the floor and the mat were never obstructed. Plaintiff said in her deposition that she did not see the bump in the mat before falling. She stated that she was “not paying attention” to the mat and if she had seen the bump, she would have attempted to fix it. (D. 17-3 at pg. 15, 21, 23)

         The parties dispute the extent of the presence of Defendant's employees in the area before and at the time of the accident. In the video footage, no Wal-Mart employee is visible in Plaintiff's immediate vicinity when she trips. Defendant asserts there were “no Wal-Mart employees in the Produce section prior to [her] fall.” (D. 17 at pg. 4) Most notably, Plaintiff states “there was an employee in the produce section from 11:06:43 A.M. to 11:13:05 A.M. stocking shelves” and that the Plaintiff and her family members “encounter[ed] an employee stocking shelves directly right of where Plaintiff fell” at the time of the incident. (D. 26 at pg. 4)

         The Plaintiff alleges in her Complaint that the floor mat “was not lying flat upon the floor and because of its color could not be seen as representing a hazard.” (D. 1) She further alleges Defendant must compensate her for injuries she allegedly sustained due to Defendant's negligence related to the offending mat. Id. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing no genuine issue of material facts exist. (D. 17 at pg. 1). The Court disagrees.

         II.

         The Court's jurisdiction in this case arises under the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. As such, the Court applies Illinois law to substantive matters and federal law to procedural matters. Hanna v. Plumer, 380 U.S. 460, 464-65 (1965); Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938); see also Evans v. Lederie Laboratories, a Div. of American Cyanamid Co., 904 F.Supp. 857, 859 (C.D. Ill. 1995).

         Summary judgment 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317');">7477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The moving party has the burden of providing proper documentary evidence to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323- 24 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the opposing party must come forward with specific evidence, not mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, which demonstrates that there is a genuine issue for trial. Gracia v. Volvo Europa Truck, N.V., 112 F.3d 291, 294 (7th Cir. 1997). “[A] party moving for summary judgment can prevail just by showing that the other party has no evidence on an issue on which that party has the burden of proof.” Brazinski v. Amoco Petroleum Additives Co., 6 F.3d 1176, 1183(7th Cir. 1993).

         Accordingly, the non-movant cannot rest on the pleadings alone, but must designate specific facts in affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or admissions that establish that there is a genuine triable issue; he “‘must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact.'” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256-57 (1986)(quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)); Hot Wax, Inc. v. Turtle Wax, Inc., 191 F.3d 813, 818 (7th Cir. 1999). Finally, a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is not sufficient to oppose successfully a summary judgment motion; “there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant].” Anderson at 250.

         III.

         Defendant argues in its Motion for Summary Judgment that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Specifically, Defendant argues the Plaintiff is unable to present evidence that (1) Defendant had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition-the buckled floor mat, or (2) that Defendant negligently placed said floor mat. (D. 17 at pg. 1) Defendant ...


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