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Krick v. Giant Food Stores, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 28, 2018

YVONNE E. KRICK, Plaintiff
v.
GIANT FOOD STORES, LLC, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          STENGEL, C.J.

         Plaintiff Yvonne E. Krick brought this diversity action against Defendant Giant Food Stores alleging one count of negligence, [1] stemming from injuries she sustained as a business invitee at the defendant's location in Reading, Pennsylvania. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to which the plaintiff responded. Because I find that there is a genuine dispute of material facts, I will deny the motion in its entirety.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 30, 2014, Ms. Krick was working as an independent contractor at the defendant's grocery store in Reading. At approximately 8:00 that morning, Ms. Krick tripped on a carpet or floor mat located in the Dairy Department. Immediately afterwards, Ms. Krick reported the incident to Mark Kimmel, the store's senior manager on duty at the time.

         During the course of each day, Giant employees are tasked with performing hourly “clean sweep” inspections of the store's premises using a scanning gun to scan barcodes at various areas throughout the store. These inspections are designed to, inter alia, locate and address conditions which might pose a hazard to customers, including the presence of objects on the floor or other conditions which could create a risk of tripping. For example, a folded-up floor mat would have constituted a hazard to be noted during the clean sweep. Giant's Clean Sweep Guidelines require employees performing this task to identify and resolve any identified hazards.

         The defendant's records show that a clean sweep of the area where Ms. Krick tripped was performed by Giant employee Elma DeJesus at 7:22 a.m. on May 30, 2014. No hazards, including any issues with floor mats, were noted on Ms. DeJesus's Clean Sweep Report for that morning.

         Ms. Krick, who visited that Giant store twice a month in her professional capacity, had never observed the mats at the store in any condition other than flat. As she was walking from the front of the store to the back, she was able to see the Dairy Department where the incident occurred. The lighting was sufficient such that Ms. Krick had no trouble seeing where she was walking, and that there was nothing obstructing her view as she proceeded towards the back of the store.

         Ms. Krick testified that, on May 30, 2014, her foot got caught in a fold in one of the mats in the Dairy Department of the store, causing her to lose her balance and lunge forward. She further testified that had she been looking where she was walking, she would have seen the mat on the floor before she tripped over it.

         Immediately after Ms. Krick reported the incident to Mr. Kimmel, he went to the Dairy Department with her to survey the area. He observed that the mat on which Ms. Krick tripped was lying flat. Ms. Krick testified that she has no idea how the mat came to be folded, who flipped it over, or how long it had been in that condition prior to her fall.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is “genuine” when “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party” based on the evidence in the record. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is “material” when it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id.

         A party seeking summary judgment initially bears responsibility for informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that “it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue at trial, the moving party's initial Celotex burden can be met simply by demonstrating to the district court that “there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Id. at 325. After the moving party has met its initial burden, the adverse party's response must cite “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). Summary judgment is therefore appropriate when the non-moving party fails to rebut by making a factual showing that is “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, 477 U.S. at 322.

         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must draw “all justifiable inferences” in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The court must decide “not whether . . . the evidence unmistakably favors one side or the other but whether a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff on the evidence presented.” Id. at 252. If the non-moving party has produced more than a “mere scintilla of evidence” demonstrating a genuine issue of material fact, then the court may not credit the moving party's “version of events against the opponent, even if the quantity of the [moving party's] evidence far outweighs that of its opponent.” Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

         III. ...


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