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Martinez v. Sam's West, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 17, 2017

ROSALIND MARTINEZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
SAM'S WEST, INC. et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

         Presently before the court is defendants Sam's West, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.'s (“Wal-Mart”) motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 32). Plaintiff filed a response (ECF No. 35), and defendants filed a reply (ECF No. 37).

         I. Introduction

         On May 6, 2015, plaintiff filed the present case in Nevada state court, alleging claims against defendants for negligence and premises liability in relation to a slip-and-fall occurring in a Sam's Club store due to a clear puddle located at a checkout counter. (ECF No. 1-1). On October 19, 2015, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. filed a petition for removal to this court.[1] (ECF No. 1). On August 4, 2016, defendants filed the present motion. (ECF No. 32).

         In their motion for summary judgment, defendants argue that plaintiff cannot succeed on her claim for negligence based on premises liability because she cannot show breach of duty for a lack of actual or constructive notice of any hazardous condition. (Id.). Particularly, defendants assert that there is no evidence that defendants' employees created the harmful condition or that the condition had been present for an unreasonable amount of time. (Id.).

         Further, defendants argue that the store manager who interacted with plaintiff after the incident had no foundation for making any probative statement about the presence of the clear liquid. (Id.). That manager believed that the substance forming the puddle was from a rotisserie chicken container; the records for that checkout register indicated that the prior customer at that register had indeed purchased a rotisserie chicken. See (ECF Nos. 32, 32-1, 32-4). Defendants additionally suggest that there is no evidence on the record that any employee knew about the puddle before the incident and that seven minutes is an insufficient duration of time to impose constructive notice. (ECF No. 32).

         Plaintiff responded, contesting that the length of time the puddle had been on the floor and its origin were questions proper for jury determination; a failure to inspect the ground in front of a checkout counter for seven minutes was unreasonable; and Sprague v. Lucky Stores, Inc., 849 P.2d 320, 322 (1993), controls because constructive notice is a question for the jury and the checkout area was one of “continuous risk.” (ECF No. 35 at 9-11).

         Defendants replied, arguing that Sprague is factually distinguishable from the instant case and that plaintiff's assertions regarding the origin of the puddle or its length of existence were mere speculation and not sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 37).

         II. Legal Standard

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow summary judgment when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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). A principal purpose of summary judgment is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . .” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323- 24 (1986).

         For purposes of summary judgment, disputed factual issues should be construed in favor of the non-moving party. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed., 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). However, to be entitled to a denial of summary judgment, the non-moving party must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id.

         In determining summary judgment, the court applies a burden-shifting analysis. “When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.” C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000). Moreover, “[i]n such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case.” Id.

         By contrast, when the non-moving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the non-moving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the non-moving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323-24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the non-moving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159- 60 (1970).

         If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

         III. ...


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