United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Danville Division
DAWN J. MESSINA, Plaintiff,
SAM'S EAST, INC., and SAM'S REAL ESTATE BUSINESS TRUST, Defendants.
JACKSON L. KISER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendants Sam's Club East, Inc., and
Sam's Real Estate Business Trust's (collectively
“Sam's Club”) Motion for Summary Judgment
(“the Motion”). [ECF No. 35]. The matter was
fully briefed by the parties, and I heard oral argument on
the Motion on July 12, 2018. I have reviewed the evidence,
arguments of counsel, and applicable law. The matter is now
ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated herein, I will
deny the Motion.
STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
to the appropriate standard of review, the facts are
recounted in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the party
opposing summary judgment. See Scott v. Harris, 550
U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
Club owns and operates a retail store in Danville, Virginia.
The store is laid out in such a way that the area near the
cash registers, through which most patrons pass after
completing their purchases, is known by Sam's Club as
“Action Alley.” Immediately adjacent to action
alley are several tables at which patrons may sit after
making food and drink purchases at Sam's Club's
Dawn J. Messina (“Plaintiff”) was shopping at
Sam's Club on August 21, 2015. A surveillance video shows
several important minutes of that day.
in the store, Plaintiff was walking through Action Alley and
past the café area. As she turned right out of Action
Alley and passed in front of a table, she slipped on a liquid
substance on the floor and fell to her knee. After falling,
Plaintiff looked back and noticed clear liquid on the floor
where she slipped. Sam's Club employees immediately
tended to her and cleaned up the liquid. As a result of her
fall, Plaintiff injured her left thumb and right knee.
to her fall, a Sam's Club employee is seen cleaning
tables near where Plaintiff fell. Although the employee did
not clean the table where Plaintiff fell, he cleaned a table
next to it.
surveillance video shows a spot on the floor in the
approximate area where Plaintiff fell. From the beginning of
the video until Plaintiff's fall over eight minutes
later, the spot is visible. After Plaintiff's fall and
after a Sam's employee wiped the floor with a paper
towel, the spot is no longer visible.
filed suit in the Circuit Court for the City of Danville on
July 17, 2017, and Sam's Club removed the action to this
Court on October 20, 2017. Following discovery, Sam's
Club filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on June 13, 2018.
[ECF No. 35.] Plaintiff responded on July 26 [ECF No. 41],
and Sam's Club replied on July 3 [ECF No. 45]. I heard
oral argument on July 12, and advised the parties that I
would prepare a written opinion outlining the reasoning for
my ruling. This Memorandum Opinion serves that purpose.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine dispute of
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); George & Co. LLC
v. Imagination Entm't Ltd., 575 F.3d 383, 392 (4th
Cir. 2009). A genuine dispute of material fact exists
“[w]here the record taken as a whole could…lead
a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving
party.” Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586
(2009) (internal quotation marks and citing reference
omitted); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute cannot be created
where there is only a scintilla of evidence favoring the
nonmovant; rather, the Court must look to the quantum of
proof applicable to the claim to determine whether a genuine
dispute exists. Scott, 550 U.S. at 380;
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50, 254. Not every factual
dispute will defeat a summary judgment motion; there must be
a genuine dispute over a material fact.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. A fact is material
where it might affect the outcome of the case in light of the
controlling law. Id. at 248. On a motion for summary
judgment, the facts are taken in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party insofar as there is a genuine dispute
about those facts. Scott, 550 U.S. at 380. At this
stage, however, the Court's role is not to weigh the
evidence, but simply to determine whether a genuine dispute
exists making it appropriate for the case to proceed to
trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
diversity case, a federal court must apply the substantive
law of the forum state. See generally Erie R.R. Co. v.
Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938). Therefore, the Virginia
law applicable to slip-and-fall cases governs this case.
Logan v. Boddie-Noell Enter., Inc., No. 4:11-cv-8,
2012 WL 135284, at *4 (W.D. Va. January 18, 2012).