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Sheila Graham v. Moran Foods

May 18, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.


Sheila Graham ("Plaintiff") brings this premises-liability action after she fell at a Save-A-Lot store operated by Moran Foods, Inc. ("Defendant"). Defendant moved for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion because, as a matter of law, Defendant did not owe Plaintiff a duty to prevent harm from an obvious condition.


On August 15, 2009, at approximately 10:39 a.m., Plaintiff tripped over a pallet and fell while grocery shopping with her family at a Save-A-Lot store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Compl. ¶ 6; Graham Dep. 18:6-7, July 11, 2011;

Howard Dep. 40:7-9, May 25, 2011. Plaintiff walked toward a freezer, while pushing a shopping cart, to view items that were on sale. Graham Dep. 21:21-24, 23:2-4. Plaintiff heard the voice of another customer behind her say, "excuse me." Id. at 22:1-5, 24:21-24. Plaintiff glanced behind her and started to step backwards with her shopping cart. Id. at 24:23-24, 25:1-13. Before stepping backwards, Plaintiff did not look to see if there were any obstructions in her way. Id. at 25:12-16. Plaintiff took about four or five steps backwards and tripped on a pallet on the floor. Id. at 22:11-16, 24:21-24, 26:5-8, 27:1-5. Plaintiff fell flat back onto the pallet and food items on the pallet. Id. at 29:4-30:22.

Plaintiff walked past the pallet on her way to the freezer but did not see the pallet before falling.*fn2 Id. at 22:20-24, 25:14-16. The pallet was stacked with cases of canned food at different heights and spaced out over the pallet. Id. at 22:12-16. The stacks ranged from about two to five cases high. Id. Defendant used the pallets either to display merchandise or to load and unload merchandise. Howard Dep. 11:13-12:4. The store manager on duty during the incident, Brittney Howard, viewed a photograph of the pallet in question and testified that, based on the arrangement of the merchandise on the pallet, an employee was using the pallet to stock merchandise on the shelves. Id. at 12:11-13; id. Ex. 2; Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. B. Furthermore, every two hours, employees at the store perform "sweeps" to check for hazardous conditions throughout the store. Howard Dep. 34:18-4. The last sweep was performed at 10:00 a.m., approximately thirty-nine minutes before Plaintiff's fall. Id. at 40:7-12; id. Ex. 3.

Following the incident, Plaintiff spoke to Howard. Graham Dep. 32:15-34:19. Plaintiff and Howard signed a customer statement form following the incident. Id. at 33:7-8; Howard Dep. 21:3-11. Plaintiff experienced pain in her ankle and leg shortly after the incident, and experienced worsening pain and injury, particularly in her lower back, following her fall and continuing to the present. Graham Dep. 32:19, 36:8-94:14.


On January 13, 2011, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant*fn3 alleging one count of negligence and seeking damages in excess of $150,000. Compl. ¶¶ 7-12. On February 2, 2011, Defendant answered. Answer 1.

Following discovery, Defendant moved for summary judgment. Mot. for Summ. J. 1. Plaintiff responded. Pl.'s Resp.

1. And Defendant replied. Def.'s Reply 1. The matter is now ripe for disposition.*fn4


Summary judgment is appropriate if there are no genuine disputes of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "A motion for summary judgment will not be defeated by 'the mere existence' of some disputed facts, but will be denied when there is a genuine issue of material fact." Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle & Scott Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)). A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the litigation, and a dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

The Court will view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. "After making all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor, there is a genuine issue of material fact if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party." Pignataro v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 593 F.3d 265, 268 (3d Cir. 2010). While the moving party bears the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, meeting this obligation shifts the burden to the ...

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