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Payne v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division

June 16, 2017

TAMMY PAYNE, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, L.P., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MARY GEIGER LEWIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Tammy Payne (Plaintiff) filed this lawsuit as an action for negligence and wanton and willful conduct against Defendant Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. (Defendant). The Court has jurisdiction over the matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Pending before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment under Federal Civil Procedure Rule 56. Having carefully considered the motion, the response, the reply, the record, and the applicable law, it is the judgment of the Court Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         While shopping at Walmart store #1382 in Greenwood, South Carolina on October 24, 2014, Plaintiff slipped on a foreign substance on the floor, which she later learned to be milk. Plaintiff alleges she sustained injuries to her right knee and hips and subsequently her left knee and back as a result of the incident. Plaintiff failed to see milk on the floor prior to her fall and could not quantify how much milk was on the floor, how long the milk had been on the floor, or how the milk came to be on the floor. Surveillance video from October 24, 2014, shows a child dropped a carton of milk on the floor four minutes prior to Plaintiff's fall. Plaintiff lacks knowledge of any Walmart employee having notice of the milk on the floor prior to her fall.

         Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this action on May 16, 2016, in the Greenwood County Court of Common Pleas. In the Complaint, she alleges claims for negligence and wanton and willful conduct against Defendant. Defendant timely filed its Answer and Notice of Removal on June 23, 2016.

         Defendant subsequently filed its motion for summary judgment on May 4, 2017. Plaintiff filed her response in opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment on May 28, 2017, to which Defendant filed its reply on June 1, 2017. The Court, having been fully briefed on the relevant issues, is now prepared to make a determination on the merits of the motion.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is only appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in his favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The moving party has the burden of proving summary judgment is appropriate. Once the moving party makes this showing, however, the opposing party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but rather must, by affidavits or other means permitted by the Rule, set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A party asserting a fact is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by “citing 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A litigant “cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). Therefore, “[m]ere unsupported speculation . . . is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion.” Ennis v. Nat'l Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995).

         “[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate.” Teamsters Joint Council No. 83 v. Centra, Inc., 947 F.2d 115, 119 (4th Cir. 1996). “Summary judgment is proper only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts.” Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). The court must determine “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         IV. CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

         In Defendant's motion for summary judgment, it first alleges Plaintiff has failed to create any genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Defendant created the hazard. Defendant also maintains Plaintiff alleges no facts that show Defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the milk's presence on the floor but failed to remove it.

         Plaintiff disputes each ...


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