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Kathleen Siffel v. Best Buy Co.

October 3, 2012


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



Plaintiff Kathleen Siffel commenced this negligence action against defendant Best Buy Stores, L.P. (incorrectly designated in Complaint as "Best Buy Co., Inc.") ("Best Buy") in which she claims damages arising out of a slip and fall on August 11, 2009. Presently before the Court is defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion"), which the Court denies for the reasons set forth below.


On August 11, 2009, at approximately 4:30 p.m., Siffel, who is a resident of Pennsylvania, entered defendant's*fn1 store located at 310 Commerce Boulevard in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania.*fn2 (Compl. 2.) She was shopping for a gift card to give to her daughter's boyfriend as a birthday present. (Pl. Repl., Ex. A, Kathleen Siffel Dep. 7-8.) After entering the store, Siffel asked an employee to direct her to the gift card display. (Id. at 10.) She proceeded into the store some eight to ten paces, and turned to confirm with the employee that she was going in the correct direction, at which point she took a further step and slipped on a "circular add [sic]", causing her to stumble into the store's Welcome Stand. (Id. at 20.)

Siffel did not see any advertising circulars or inserts on the floor prior to her fall as she was distracted by signs, displays, and her own search for gift cards. (Id.) However, she identified the cause of her slip as an advertisement paper because it was still beneath her foot when she "landed against the podium." (Id. at 12.) The fall occurred within a few feet of the store's Welcome Stand such that her right foot slipped and she "ended up hugging into the podium to prevent [her]self from falling." (Id. at 14.) Plaintiff asserts that the advertisement came from the store's Welcome Stand, and defendant does not specifically contest this point. (Pl. Repl. 1); (Mot. 7.)

Siffel sought medical treatment after the accident. Following x-rays taken at Lower Bucks Hospital, Dr. Mark Burton informed her that she had broken sesamoid bones in her right foot. (Pl. Repl., Ex. A, Kathleen Siffel Dep. 26.) Siffel was fitted with a large cast on her right foot, which Dr. Burton later replaced with a protective boot. (Id. at 27, 40.) Later, Siffel developed pain in her left foot, which both Dr. Burton and Dr. Wen Chao agreed was due to her attempt to keep weight off her right foot. (Id. at 43-44.) The result of the extra weight caused a stress fracture and tendonitis in her left foot. (Id. at 44.) In sum, Siffel has suffered or continues to suffer from: "fractured left foot; fractured hallux of the right toe; distal neuropathy of the peroneal and sural nerve fibers of the right foot; complex regional pain syndrome; reflex sympathetic dystrophy-right lower extremity and; injuries to her nerves and nervous system . . ." (Compl. 6.) Further, she claims that she was made to undergo, inter alia, "great mental anguish, emotional distress, embarrassment," and "humiliation." (Id.)

Plaintiff filed her Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Trial Division, on May 5, 2011. Defendant then removed the case to this Court on June 8, 2011. Plaintiff alleges in the Complaint that the defendant was negligent in failing to properly inspect and maintain its floors. Specifically, she claims that defendant "had actual notice or, alternatively had constructive notice or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known of the . . . defect . . . ." (Compl. 5.)

III.Standard of Review

In considering a motion for summary judgment, "the court is required to examine the evidence of record in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, and resolve all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3rd Cir. 2007). The party opposing the motion, however, cannot "rely merely upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions" to support its claim. Fireman's Ins. Co. v. DuFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3rd Cir. 1982). After examining the evidence of record, a court should 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); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

A factual dispute is material when it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law" and genuine when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation omitted).


A. Legal Standard

Under Pennsylvania law, "[i]n any case sounding in negligence, a plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) a duty of care; (2) the breach of the duty; (3) a causal connection between the conduct and the resulting injury; and (4) actual loss or damage resulting to the plaintiff." Farabaugh v. Pa. Turnpike Comm'n, 911 A.2d 1264, 1272-73 (Pa. 2006). Specifically, for claims by purported business invitees, § 343 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts governs.*fn3 ยง 343 states that a business is liable for harm to patrons caused by a dangerous condition on its premises but only if the owner has notice of the condition, which poses an unreasonable risk of harm, and where the owner fails to exercise reasonable care to protect patrons from the ...

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