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Corrado v. Super Fresh Food Markets

December 17, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: DuBOIS, J.


I. Introduction

Plaintiffs Ann Corrado ("Corrado") and her husband Augustine Corrado commenced this negligence action against defendant Super Fresh Food Markets, Inc. ("Super Fresh") in which they claim damages arising out of Corrado's slip and fall on July 11, 2006, at defendant's store located in Claymont, Delaware. Presently before the Court is defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion"), which the Court grants for the reasons set forth below.

II. Background

On July 11, 2006, at approximately 5:00 p.m., plaintiffs, who are residents of Pennsylvania, entered defendant's*fn1 store located at 2105 Philadelphia Pike in Claymont, Delaware. (Compl. ¶ 7.) They were in route to their son's house in Claymont, Delaware, and decided to purchase a fruit bowl to bring with them. (See Mot. ¶¶ 12-13, Ex. C, Ann Corrado Dep. 16; Plfs.' Resp. ¶¶ 12-13.) After selecting her purchase in the produce department, Corrado, while walking to the checkout counter, slipped on a crushed blueberry or blueberries, causing her to fall backwards and injure her left knee. (Compl. ¶ 7.)

Corrado did not observe any garbage, debris, or fruit on the floor when she entered the produce department or before she fell. (Mot. ¶ 15, Plfs.' Resp. ¶ 15.) No one, including Corrado's husband or the thirty-to-forty-five Super Fresh employees working that evening, witnessed her fall. (Mot. ¶¶ 24, 29; Plfs.' Resp. ¶¶ 24, 29.) Corrado did not know what she had slipped on until the store manager, John Colantuono, observed a blueberry smear on the floor, which was a couple of inches long and about a quarter-inch wide, and advised Corrado that there was also a blueberry smear on the bottom of her sandal. (Mot. ¶ 22; Plfs.' Resp. ¶ 22.) The fall was within five feet of a display of blueberries packaged in "clam shell" plastic containers. (Mot. Ex. E, John Colantuono Dep. 44-45.) There is no video surveillance of the incident. (Mot. ¶ 38; Plfs.' Resp. ¶ 38.)

Corrado sought medical treatment after the accident. Following an MRI, which showed a tear in her medial meniscus, Dr. Jess H. Lonner recommended and performed arthroscopic surgery on her left knee on November 1, 2006. (Plfs.' Resp. Ex. B, Lonner Report, at 2.) Dr. Lonner opined that the tear was due to Corrado's slip and fall. (Id.) Following surgery, Corrado received physical therapy on her knee from November 15, 2006, to January 24, 2007. (Plfs.' Resp. Mem. 3.) She has outstanding medical bills in the amount of $20,289.85. (Id.)

Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in this Court on April 23, 2008. In Count One, Corrado alleges that defendant was negligent in failing to properly inspect and clean its floors. Specifically, she claims that the crushed blueberry or blueberries were "apparent, open and known" to the defendant and that the "condition had existed for a sufficient length of time" to establish proof of "actual and/or constructive knowledge or notice thereof." (Compl. ¶ 8.) In Count Two, Corrado's husband alleges that defendant's negligence deprived him of his wife's society, services, and companionship. (Id. ¶ 19.)

III. Choice of Law

Federal courts exercising diversity jurisdiction must apply the conflict of law rules of the forum state. On Air Entertainment Corp. v. Nat'l Indem. Co., 210 F.3d 146, 149 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496-97 (1941)). Therefore, Pennsylvania choice of law rules apply to this case.

Pennsylvania applies "interest/contacts" methodology to choice-of-law questions. See Hammersmith v. TIG Ins. Co., 480 F.3d 220, 226-27 (3d Cir. 2007). This is a "flexible choice of law rule which weighs the interests [its] sister-states may have in the transaction." Powers v. Lycoming Engines, 328 Fed. Appx. 121, 124 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Commonwealth v. Eichinger, 915 A.2d 1122, 1133 (Pa. 2007)). Pennsylvania's choice-of-law analysis requires the Court to conduct a two-part inquiry: "The first level of scrutiny considers whether 'an actual or real conflict [exists] between the potentially applicable laws.'" Powers, 328 Fed. Appx. at 125 (quoting Hammersmith, 480 F.3d at 230) (brackets added in Powers). "If there are relevant differences between the laws, then the court should examine the governmental policies underlying each law, and classify the conflict as a 'true,' 'false,' or an 'unprovided-for' situation.'" Hammersmith, 480 F.3d at 230. "A 'deeper [choice of law] analysis' is necessary only if both jurisdictions' interests would be impaired by the application of the other's laws (i.e., there is a true conflict)." Id. (quoting Cipolla v. Shaposka, 267 A.2d 854, 856 (Pa. 1970)) (brackets added in Hammersmith). The second level of scrutiny applies only when a true conflict exists. "[T]he Court must then determine which state has the 'greater interest in the application of its law.'" Hammersmith, 480 F.3d at 231 (quoting Cipolla, 267 A.2d at 856).

To determine the significance of a state's interests, courts assess the "contacts each state has with the accident, the contacts being relevant only if they relate to the 'policies and interests underlying the particular issue before the court.'" Cipolla, 267 A.2d at 856 (quoting Griffith v. United Air Lines, Inc., 203 A.2d 796, 805 (Pa. 1964)).

Both plaintiffs and defendant argue that Delaware law should apply in this case. The Court agrees and concludes that under the circumstances presented, an analysis of whether there is a true conflict between Pennsylvania and Delaware law is unnecessary.

The Court determines that a number of factors weigh in favor of applying Delaware law. First, defendant's store is located in Delaware. See McDowell v. Kmart Corp., No. 06-CV-02508, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46903, *5 (E.D. Pa. July 12, 2006); Ramey v. Wal-Mart, Inc., 967 F. Supp. 843, 845 (E.D. Pa. 1997). Second, Delaware is the site of Corrado's accident: "while Pennsylvania has rejected strict adherence to lex loci deliciti, the location of the accident 'remains especially important in cases in which the claim arises from the use of and condition of property, traditionally matters of local control.'" McDowell, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46903, at *5 (quoting Ramey, 967 F. Supp. at 845 (internal quotation marks omitted)). Third, "defendant could reasonably be expected to fashion its conduct according to [Delaware] law because its store was located in that state" and plaintiffs, by traveling to Delaware to visit the store, chose to subject themselves to the state's laws. Id. Finally, Delaware has "an interest ...

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