United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge
premises liability action, Patricia Dennis seeks to recover
for personal injuries she sustained after falling inside a
Walmart store owned and operated by the defendant, Wal-Mart
Stores East, LP ("Wal-Mart"). The case is presently
before the court on the defendant's motion for summary
judgment. For the reasons stated below, the court will grant
the defendant's motion.
following facts from the summary judgment record are either
undisputed or presented in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Libertarian Party of Va. v.
Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013).
noon on August 11, 2014, Dennis went to the Walmart store in
Pearisburg, Virginia to return a camera that she had
purchased the previous week. It had been raining "very
hard all morning." Dennis Dep. at 3 8. The rain ended
just before Dennis parked her car near the entrance to the
"decorated flip-flops, " Dennis made her way to the
entrance. Id. at 39-40. She was aware that
"[everything was wet" from the rain that had
fallen. Id. at 39-40. Immediately upon entering the
store, Dennis made a right turn in front of the shopping
carts in order to head in the direction of the customer
service counter. Dennis subsequently realized that she was
walking through water. She continued to walk through it,
"just like a kid walking through water, " since she
needed to return the camera. Id. at 47. After taking
approximately ten or eleven steps in the water, Dennis
slipped and fell. As a result of the fall, Dennis injured her
her deposition, Dennis testified that she saw water dripping
from the shopping carts after she fell. Id. at 50.
However, she was unable to say whether the water dripping
from the carts had extended into the area in which she was
walking. Id. at 63-64. Likewise, Dennis acknowledged
that she does not know when the shopping carts had last been
pushed into the store on the day of the incident, and that
she does not know how long the water had been on the floor
before she slipped and fell. Id at 50, 64.
Crumpler was working at the customer service counter at the
time of the incident. Video surveillance footage shows that
Crumpler was talking on one of the store's telephones
just before Dennis fell. Upon learning that Dennis had fallen,
Crumpler called for assistance.
October of 2015, Dennis filed this negligence action against
Wal-Mart in the Circuit Court for the County of Giles.
Wal-Mart removed the case to this court on the basis of
diversity jurisdiction. Following the close of discovery,
Wal-Mart moved for summary judgment. The court held a hearing
on the motion on February 8, 2017. The motion has been fully
briefed and is ripe for review.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to
move for summary judgment. "The court shall grant
summary judgment 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, 322
(1986) (finding summary judgment appropriate "after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party
who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's
case"). In deciding whether to grant a summary judgment
motion, the court must view the record in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable
inferences in her favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255;
Libertarian Party of Va., 718 F.3d at 312.
this federal action is based upon diversity of citizenship,
the court must apply the substantive law of the forum state,
including its choice of law rules. Limbach Co.. LLC v.
Zurich Am. Ins. Co., 396 F.3d 358, 361 (4th Cir. 2005).
The parties ...