United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division
Linda K. Rushton and Kenneth Rushton, Plaintiffs,
United States of America and Cintas Corporation Nos. 2, Defendants.
ORDER AND OPINION
Linda K. Rushton (“Ms. Rushton”) and her husband
Kenneth Rushton filed this action seeking damages from
Defendants the United States of America (“United
States”) and Cintas Corporation No. 2
“Defendants”) for injuries Ms. Rushton suffered
on April 15, 2013, from an alleged slip and fall in the
United States Post Office in Wagener, South Carolina. (ECF
No. 23 at 2 ¶ 8-9.) Ms. Rushton allegedly tripped on a
“ripple” in a mat when she entered the Post
Office, and then fell resulting in “severe and
permanent injuries.” (Id. at ¶ 9.)
Plaintiff Kenneth Rushton brings a claim for loss of
consortium with his wife as a result of her injuries.
(Id. at ¶ 14.) Plaintiffs allege that the
United States was negligent in “failing to remove the
ripple from the mat after it had actual or constructive
notice; failing to warn; using a defective mat which would
develop ripples in it; and continuing to use a defective mat
after notice that it was defective[.]” (Id. at
2 ¶ 12.)
filed their initial Complaint on March 26, 2015 (ECF No. 1)
against the United States, pursuant to the Federal Tort
Claims Act (“FTCA”), and subsequently filed an
Amended Complaint on March 30, 2016 adding Cintas Corporation
as a defendant. (ECF No. 23.)
matter is before the court on the United States' Motion
for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's claim for
negligence against it. (ECF No. 51.) Plaintiffs responded to
the Motion, and the United States replied. (ECF Nos. 60, 62.)
For the reasons stated below, the court
GRANTS the United States'
court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1346(b)(1) because the United States is a defendant.
Plaintiffs bring their claims against the United States
pursuant to the FTCA, 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et seq.
judgment should be granted “if the movant shows 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 fact is “material” if proof
of its existence or non-existence would affect the
disposition of the case under the applicable law.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists where, after
reviewing the record as a whole, the court finds that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court must view
the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party. Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915
F.2d 121, 124 (4th Cir. 1990) (citing Pignons S.A. De
Mecanique v. Polaroid Corp., 657 F.2d 482, 486 (1st Cir.
1981)). The non-moving party may not oppose a motion for
summary judgment with mere allegations or denials of the
movant's pleading, but instead must set forth specific
facts demonstrating a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(e); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
322, 324 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Shealy v. Winston, 929
F.2d 1009, 1012 (4th Cir. 1991). All that is required is that
“sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual
dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the
parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citing First National
Bank of Arizona v. Cities Service Co., 391 U.S. 253,
288-89 (1968)). “Mere 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) (citing Felty
v. Graves-Humphreys Co., 818 F.2d 1126, 1128 (4th Cir.
1987)). “[T]he burden [to show no genuine issue of
material fact] on the moving party may be discharged by
‘showing'-that is, pointing out to the district
court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the
non[-]moving party's case.” Celotex Corp.,
477 U.S. at 325.
[ ] a situation [where a party fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish an essential element of their case,
on which they will bear the burden of proof at trial], there
can be ‘no genuine issue as to any material fact, '
since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential
element of the non[-]moving party's case necessarily
renders all other facts immaterial. The moving party is
‘entitled to a judgment as a matter of law' because
the non[-]moving party has failed to make a sufficient
showing on an essential element of her case with respect to
which she has the burden of proof.” Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23.
to the FTCA, “[t]he United States shall be liable,
respecting the provisions of this title relating to tort
claims, in the same manner and to the same extent as a
private individual under like circumstances, but shall not be
liable for interest prior to judgment or for punitive
damages[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 2674. The FTCA
incorporates the law of the state under which the “act
or omission complained of occurred.” Id.;
see also Corrigan v. United States, 815 F.2d 954,
955 (4th Cir. 1987). In this case, South Carolina law will
bring a negligence claim against the United States, thus in
order to prove their claim under South Carolina law, they
must show evidence that “. . . (1) defendant owed [Ms.
Rushton] a duty of care; (2) defendant breached this duty by
a negligent act or omission; (3) defendant's breach was
the proximate cause of [Ms. Rushton's] injuries; and (4)
[Ms. Rushton] suffered injury or damages.” Dorrell
v. S.C. DOT, 605 S.E.2d 12, 15 (S.C. 2004) (citation
Rushton was an “invitee” under South Carolina
law, and with this designation, the Post Office only owed her
a “duty of exercising ordinary care to keep the
premises in reasonably safe condition.” Milligan v.
Winn-Dixie Raleigh, Inc., 254 S.E.2d 798, 799 (S.C.
1979); see also Sims v. Giles, 541
S.E.2d 857, 861 (S.C. Ct. App. 2001) (an invitee is a
business guest); (ECF No. 23 at 2 ¶ 8.) The Post office
has a duty to invitees to “warn [them] of latent or
hidden dangers of which [the Post Office] has knowledge or
should have knowledge.” Larimore v. Carolina
Power & Light, 531 S.E.2d 535, 538 (S.C.
Ct. App. 2000) (citing Callander v. Charleston Doughnut
Corp., 406 S.E.2d 361 (S.C. 1991)). The Post Office does
not have a duty to warn for “open and obvious
dangers” unless the Post Office “. . . should
anticipate the harm despite such knowledge or
obviousness.” Callander, 406 S.E.2d at
362 (alteration in the original) (citing Restatement (Second)
of Torts § 343(A) cmt. f (1965)). This duty also
includes the Post Office taking “reasonable steps to
protect an invitee, ‘if the possessor has reason to
expect that the invitee's attention may be distracted, so
that he will not discover what is obvious, . . . or fail to
protect himself against it.'” Id.
the Post Office's duty to keep the premises in reasonably
safe condition, “[in order] [t]o recover damages for
injuries caused by a dangerous or defective condition on a
storekeeper's premises, the plaintiff must show either
(1) that the injury was caused by a specific act of the
defendant which created the dangerous condition; or (2) that
the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the
dangerous condition and failed to remedy it.”
Wintersteen v. Food Lion, Inc., 542 S.E.2d 728, 729
(S.C. 2001) (citing Anderson v. Racetrac Petroleum
Inc., 371 S.E.2d 530, 531 (S.C. 1988)). This ...