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Rodgers v. Supervalu, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 7, 2017

PATRICIA RODGERS
v.
SUPERVALU, INC. d/b/a Save-A-Lot Store #245, et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          O'NEILL, J.

         This is a grocery store slip-and-fall case in which plaintiff Patricia Rodgers must present sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that defendant Supervalu had knowledge- actual or constructive-of the spill in which plaintiff slipped. As plaintiff has not done so, I will grant defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was grocery shopping in the Save-A-Lot store in Folcroft, Pennsylvania on July 10th, 2015 when she slipped in a basket-ball-sized puddle of water and fell, injuring her left knee and hip. Dkt. No. 15, Ex. B (Rodgers Dep.) at 15:1-5, 18:16-20, 19:18-21:24, 25:4-12. She did not know where the water came from or how long it had been on the floor. Id. at 24:4-11. There were no footprints or trails from shopping carts through it. Id. at 25:13-17.

         It is not clear where she was when she fell. She testified that she slipped while she was “going to the register, ” id. at 19:18-23, and that two people in front of her, who were not in line but “going towards the register as well” helped her up. Id. at 24:12-18.

         The Save-A-Lot store had a policy requiring employees to conduct a clean sweep before opening and every two hours thereafter. See Dkt. No. 17, Ex. B (Clean Sweep Log). On the day plaintiff fell, employees had done a clean sweep of the store at 7:49 a.m., but did not document any other clean sweep before plaintiff fell, around 10:15 a.m. Id.; Rodgers Dep. at 28:10-17.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment will be granted “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating 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); see Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. If the movant sustains its burden, the nonmovant must set forth facts demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. A fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Id.

         To establish “that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed, ” a party must:

(A) cit[e] to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) show[ ] that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). The “existence of disputed issues of material fact should be ascertained by resolving all inferences, doubts and issues of credibility against” the movant. Ely v. Hall's Motor Transit Co., 590 F.2d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 1978) (citations and quotation marks omitted). However, the adverse party must offer “more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor” in order to overcome a summary judgment motion and cannot survive by relying on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions. Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989). “[T]he nonmoving party cannot rely upon conclusory allegations in its pleadings or in memoranda and briefs to establish a genuine issue of material fact.” Pastore v. Bell Tel. Co., 24 F.3d 508, 511 (3d Cir. 1994).[1]

         DISCUSSION

         Under Pennsylvania law, a plaintiff bringing a negligence claim must present evidence on four elements in order to survive summary judgment: (1) a duty or obligation recognized by law requiring the actor to conform to a certain standard of conduct for the protection of others against unreasonable risks; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) a causal connection between the conduct and the resulting injury; and (4) actual damages. Estate of Swift v. Ne. Hosp., 690 A.2d 719, 722 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1997); Craig v. Franklin Mills Assocs., LP, 555 F.Supp.2d 547, 548 (E.D. Pa. ...


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