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Smith v. Barnes & Noble Booksellers

May 27, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James M. Munley United States District Court

(Judge Munley)


Before the court is the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Inc. and Barnes & Noble, Inc. (hereinafter "defendants"). Having been fully briefed and argued*fn1 , the matter is ripe for disposition.


This case involves a slip-and-fall accident suffered by Plaintiff Michael A. Smith, Jr. at a Barnes & Noble store in Enfield, Connecticut on October 26, 2006. Plaintiff is a resident of Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. (Defendant's Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 29) (hereinafter "Defendant's Statement") at ¶ 5). At the time of his accident, plaintiff was employed by Kus Tire, a company located in Wilkes-Barre.

(Id. at ¶ 6). He was in his second week on the job. (Id. at ¶ 7). Plaintiff's job required him to travel to several northeastern states to retrieve tires for his employer. (Id. at ¶ 8).

Plaintiff's injury occurred while he was on one of these trips. (Id. at ¶ 9). Plaintiff left Wilkes-Barre on the morning of September 26, 2006, heading to Connecticut to find new clients for the Kus Tire business. (Id.). Plaintiff was unable to secure a full load of used tires that day and decided to stay overnight to seek new customers the next day. (Id. at ¶ 10). At approximately 8:30 p.m., plaintiff walked into the Enfield, Connecticut Barnes & Noble bookstore. (Id. at ¶ 11). He intended to purchase some tea and use the restroom. (Id.). Upon entering the store, plaintiff purchased a cup of tea and headed for the bathroom. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-14).

Plaintiff slipped and fell on the floor of the restroom. (Id. at ¶ 15). He spilled his tea on the floor. (Id. at ¶ 16). Plaintiff does not recall seeing any water on the floor before he fell, and he was not able to identify the specific cause of his accident. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-18). One witness, Joseph LaCasse, saw plaintiff shortly after he fell. (Id. at ¶ 19). LaCasse had entered the store on the evening of September 26, 2006. (Id. at ¶ 21). After spending perhaps twenty minutes browsing books, LaCasse made his way to the restroom. (Id. at ¶ 23). He discovered plaintiff lying on his back on the floor in front of the men's restroom. (Id. at ¶ 24). Plaintiff told LaCasse that he had already telephoned for assistance from an ambulance. (Id. at ¶ 25). When LaCasse went into the bathroom, he saw a puddle of tea and another puddle of a clear liquid on the floor. (Id. at ¶ 26). LaCasse was unaware how long the puddle had been on the floor. (Id. at ¶ 27).

The parties agree that plaintiff has no evidence that defendant itself created the hazardous condition in the bathroom on September 26, 2006. (Id. ¶ 29; Plaintiff's Counterstatement of Material Facts (Doc. 31) (hereinafter "Plaintiff's Statement") at ¶ 29). The parties also agree that defendant did not have actual notice of a hazardous condition in the bathroom. (Defendant's Statement at ¶ 30; Plaintiff's Statement at ¶ 30). The parties disagree about whether plaintiff has produced any evidence showing the length of time the water remained on the floor in the restroom, and whether there is evidence that defendant had constructive notice of the dangerous conditions. (Defendant's Statement at ¶¶ 31-32; Plaintiff's Statement at ¶¶ 31-32).

Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania on September 24, 2008. (See Exh. A to Defendant's Notice of Removal (Doc. 1)). On October 30, 2008, defendant removed the case to this court. (Doc. 1). The complaint raises one count, for negligence. The parties engaged in discovery. At the close of discovery, defendant filed the instant motion. The parties then briefed and argued the issues, bringing the case to its present posture.


This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff is a citizen of Pennsylvania. Defendant is a Delaware Corporation with its principal place of business in New York. The amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Because the court is sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

Legal Standard

Granting summary judgment is proper if 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. See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the ...

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