United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Richard Mark Gergel Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendants Dolgencorp
Inc.'s, Dollar General Corporation's, Dollar General
Corporation Inc.'s, and Dollar General Store No 1191
's (together, "Defendants") motion for summary
judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. (Dkt. No. 23.) For the reasons set forth below,
the Court denies the motion.
case arises out of an incident that occurred at a Dollar
General store in Goose Creek, South Carolina on November 8,
2012. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6.) Plaintiff Esther Bradley
("Mrs. Bradley") claims that she was injured when
she tripped and fell while carrying her granddaughter to the
restroom. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 8.) Mrs. Bradley claims that her
fall was directly and proximately caused by the negligence,
recklessness, willfulness, and wantonness of the Defendants.
(Id.) She claims she is entitled to damages for her
pain and suffering, medical expenses, mental and emotional
distress and injury, permanent impairment, economic loss,
loss of enjoyment of life, and incidental expenses. (Dkt. No.
1-1 at 9.) Plaintiff Ernest Bradley, Mrs. Bradley's
husband, seeks damages for loss of consortium and services of
his spouse. (Id.) Defendants have moved for summary
judgment on all claims. (Dkt. No. 23.)
November 8, 2012, Mrs. Bradley was shopping in the Dollar
General at 5 S. Alliance Drive, Goose Creek, South Carolina.
(Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6.) According to excerpts from her
deposition which have been provided to the Court, Mrs.
Bradley shopped at this location "[a]ll the time."
(Dkt. No. 23-2 at 2.) On November 8, as she entered the
restroom hallway, her foot caught on a wire basket rack,
which caused her to fall down against some stacked boxes.
(Dkt. No. 1-1 at 8.) As result of her fall, Mrs. Bradley
alleges that she suffered injuries to her jaw and rotator
cuff. (Dkt. 23-1 at 3.) After Mrs. Bradley got up, she filled
out an incident report, purchased some items, put her
granddaughter in her car seat, and drove home. (Dkt. No. 23-2
at 11-12.) Ernest Bradley alleges his marital relationship
suffered due to his wife's injuries. (Dkt. No. 23-1 at
Bradley's deposition, only portions of which have been
provided to the Court, she stated that as she approached the
restroom she could see "a bunch of boxes and the water
fountain." (Dkt. No. 23-2 at 6.) She further stated that
she "knew to step around them." (Dkt. No. 23-2 at
8.) Mrs. Bradley said that she did not know how long the
boxes had been there, or who had placed them there. (Dkt. No.
23-2 at 8.) Though Mrs. Bradley stated that she saw the wire
basket rack, it is unclear from the materials provided
whether Mrs. Bradley was aware of the presence of the wire
basket rack before or if she only noticed the wire basket
rack after she fell. (Dkt. No. 23-2 at 5, 10.)
prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must
demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of any material
fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary
judgment has the burden of identifying the portions of the
"pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, any
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
which show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
322 (1986). The Court will construe all inferences and
ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving
party. U.S. v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655
(1962). The existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in
support of the non-moving party's position is
insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252
(1986). However, an issue of material fact is genuine if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict in favor of the non-movant. Id. at 257.
the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its
opponent must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts."
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "In the language of the Rule,
the nonmoving party must come forward with 'specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.'" Id. at 587. "Where the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue
for trial.'" Id. (quoting First Nat
IBank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289
Bradley alleges that she sustained severe injuries because of
the negligence, recklessness, willfulness, and wantonness of
the Defendants by: placing boxes and a wire basket rack in
the hallway to the restrooms; failing to establish
appropriate procedures to prevent such obstructions; failing
to anchor the wire basket rack so that it would not obstruct
the restrooms; failing to warn of the presence of obstacles;
failing to keep the entrance clear of obstacles; failing to
train employees; and failing to exercise the degree of care
and caution necessary and reasonable under the circumstances.
(Dkt. No. 1-1 at 8-9.) Defendants argue that they lacked
superior knowledge of the conditions in the hallway so they
had no duty to Mrs. Bradley to prevent this accident. (Dkt.
No. 23-1 at 11.)
establish a cause of action for negligence, Plaintiffs must
plead facts sufficient to show that: (1) Defendants owed them
a duty; (2) Defendants breached that duty through a negligent
act or omission; (3) Defendants' breach was the actual or
proximate cause of Plaintiffs' injuries; and (4)
Plaintiffs suffered actual injury or damages. Steinke v.
S.C. Dep't. of Labor, Licensing, & Regulation,
520 S.E.2d 142 149 (S.C. 1999). Merchants owe a duty of
ordinary care to keep their "premises in a reasonably
safe condition." Denton v. Winn-Dixie Greenville,
Inc., 439 S.E.2d 292, 293 (S.C. Ct. App. 1993). This
includes a duty to "keep the aisles and passageways in a
reasonably safe condition." Moore v. Levitre,
294 S.C. 453, 454 (1988). However, a landowner does not owe a
duty to prevent harm that may be caused by "known or
obvious" dangers unless the landowner should anticipate
such harm. Callander v. Charleston Doughnut Corp.,
305 S.C. 123, 126 (1991); Hancock v. Mid-South Management
Co., Inc., 381 S.C. 326, 331-32 (2009) (finding that
although a parking lot's state of disrepair was open and
obvious, a reasonable jury could find that the landowner
should have anticipated the harm); Creech v. South
Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Dept., 328 S.C.
24, 31 (1997) (finding that even if a missing rail on a dock
was open and obvious, the defendant should have anticipated
viewing all facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs,
there is a genuine issue of material fact about whether the
hallway to the restroom was in a reasonably safe condition.
Moore, 294 S.C. at 454 (holding that whether an
aisle was reasonably safe when the leg of a clothing rack
protruded into it is a question for the jury). Mrs. Bradley
acknowledges that, before she fell, she saw mops and a jumble
of "boxes stacked up" in the hallway, not all of
them flush against the wall. (Dkt. No. 23-2 at ...