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Morgan v. Best Buy Co., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

November 17, 2017

BARBIE MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
BEST BUY CO., INC, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NOS. 20, 23)

          ANDREW P. GORDON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         A television set fell on plaintiff Barbie Morgan's ankle while she was at defendant Best Buy's store. Morgan was injured and sued Best Buy for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Both parties move for summary judgment. Morgan moves for judgment on Best Buy's liability, and Best Buy moves for judgment on both of Morgan's claims. There is a genuine issue of material fact as to liability, so I deny Morgan's motion. I grant in part Best Buy's motion as to future economic and medical damages and negligent infliction of emotional distress. I deny the motion as to whether Best Buy breached a duty and is liable for past economic losses. I reserve ruling on summary judgment as to causation based on my order regarding the qualifications of Morgan's expert on causation.

         I. Background

         Morgan was at a Best Buy store in Las Vegas in October 2015.[1] While she was at the customer services counter, a Best Buy employee was helping move another customer's cart that had a TV on it.[2] The cart's front wheel became stuck on the base of the pole in the customer services line.[3] When the employee and customer moved the cart, the TV slid off and hit Morgan's ankle.[4] Her ankle began to swell.[5] Although Best Buy employees offered to call an ambulance, Morgan decided that was unnecessary.[6] The employees called an ambulance anyhow, but Morgan did not go to the hospital.[7] Instead, the Best Buy employees helped her outside to her car and she left the store.[8]

         Morgan was later diagnosed with a broken foot, severely injured ankle, medial and lateral meniscus tear in her left knee, three broken vertebra in her back, significant leg atrophy and nerve damage, and other injuries.[9] Morgan sues Best Buy for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.[10] Morgan moves for summary judgment on her negligence claim as to Best Buy's liability. Best Buy moves for summary judgment on both of Morgan's claims.

         II. Discussion

         A. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute of material fact.[11]The substantive law surrounding the claims will determine what facts are material.[12] Material facts affect the outcome of the case.[13] I must view the facts and evidence in a light favorable to the non-moving party.[14] The moving party has the initial burden to show there is an absence of disputed material fact.[15] Then the non-moving party has the burden to show that there is a genuine issue of fact.[16] If a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then summary judgment is not appropriate.[17]

         B. Motions for Summary Judgment

         1. Morgan's Motion

         Morgan moves for summary judgment on her negligence claim as to Best Buy's liability. The first two elements of negligence are: (1) the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff and (2) the defendant breached that duty.[18] A business generally owes a duty to keep the premises safe for its customers.[19] A failure to use reasonable care is a breach of this duty.[20] If a dangerous condition is created by someone other than an employee, then the business is liable if it has notice of the condition and fails to remedy it.[21]

         Best Buy owed its customer Morgan a duty to keep the premises safe. As to the breach of this duty, there is a genuine dispute of material fact. The store video shows the customer's hands on the cart when the TV fell off.[22] Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to Best Buy, a reasonable jury could find that the customer, not Best Buy's employee, caused the TV to slide off and hit Morgan. I therefore deny Morgan's motion for summary judgment.

         2. Best Buy's Motion

         Best Buy moves for summary judgment on both of Morgan's claims. It argues that there is no genuine dispute of material fact as to breach of duty, causation, past and future damages, and extreme or outrageous conduct.

         a. Negligence

         Negligence requires four elements: (1) the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff, (2) the defendant breached that duty, (3) the breach caused the plaintiff's injury, and (4) the plaintiff suffered damage.[23] To show that the plaintiff has suffered damages, there must be evidence that damages actually exist and what the amount is.[24] As long as the plaintiff shows she has been damaged, the amount can be somewhat uncertain.[25] For future medical or economic losses, there be must be competent and sufficient evidence.[26] Overall, courts do not favor summary judgment on negligence claims.[27]

         Viewing the evidence discussed above in a light favorable to Morgan, there is a genuine issue of material fact as to breach of duty. Best Buy's employee said that he saw the TV on the cart, saw that the cart was stuck on the base of the pole, and that he moved the cart at which point the TV fell off.[28] Thus, Best Buy's employee had notice of the TV's position on the cart and allegedly failed to remedy it by moving the TV to another cart, repositioning it, or securing it to the cart before moving it. A reasonable jury could find that Best Buy's employee was negligent in moving the cart when the TV was not secured.

         I reserve ruling on the causation element based on my order regarding Best Buy's argument about Morgan's expert's qualifications. I will address this issue after Morgan files her supplemental opposition.

         Best Buy moves for summary judgment on Morgan's past and future economic losses and future medical damages. Best Buy's damages expert evaluated Morgan's wages, medical records, and ability to work.[29] He concludes that Morgan has no past or future economic loss.[30] Best Buy also contends that Morgan does not have an expert on any of her damages claims so she cannot establish their existence. Morgan responds that she has medical bills, lost wages, and future economic and medical damages because of her injuries.

         There is a genuine issue of material fact as to past economic losses.[31] Morgan's wage statements have shown a slight decrease in her earned commission since the accident.[32] Thus, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to Morgan, a reasonable ...


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