United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division
Linda K. Rushton and Kenneth Rushton, Plaintiffs,
United States of America and Cintas Corporation No. 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.)
allege that Cintas was negligent “in leasing, renting,
and installing on the premises (of the Post Office) a
defective rug that would develop ripples; in failing to
properly inspect the mat; in continuing to use a defective
mat after actual or constructive notice that it was
defective; in using a mat past its useful life; and in such
other particulars as the evidence may establish.”
(Id. at 2-3 ¶ 12.) Kenneth Rushton also brings
a claim for loss of consortium with his wife as a result of
her injuries. (Id. at 3 ¶ 14.)
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 Cintas' Motion for Summary
Judgment as to Plaintiffs' claim for negligence against
it. (ECF No. 57.) Plaintiffs responded to the Motion, and
Cintas replied. (ECF Nos. 70, 71.) For the reasons stated
below, the court GRANTS Cintas'
court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. Plaintiffs Ms. Rushton and Kenneth Rushton are
citizens of Aiken County, South Carolina (ECF No. 23 at 1
¶ 1) and Cintas is a foreign corporation (id.
at 1 ¶ 3); (see also ECF No. 32 at 5 ¶ 3).
Plaintiffs seek to recover more than $75, 000. (ECF No. 23 at
1 ¶¶ 3, 6.)
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, 477 U.S. at 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.
court sits in diversity jurisdiction, thus state substantive
law must be used to adjudicate Plaintiffs' state law
negligence claim. See Auer v. Kawasaki Motors Corp.,
830 F.2d 535, 537 (4th Cir. 1987) (“. . . a federal
court called upon to adjudicate a state law claim in the
diversity jurisdiction must apply the relevant state law in
determining the substantive rights and duties of the parties,
while applying federal law to matters of procedure.”)
(citing Erie Railroad v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64
(1938)). Thus, South Carolina law will be used in this
prove a negligence claim, Plaintiff must show evidence that
“. . . (1) [Cintas] owed [Ms. Rushton] a duty of care;
(2) [Cintas] breached this duty by a negligent act or
omission; (3) [Cintas'] 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 omitted).
from the Complaint, Plaintiffs bring both a product liability
claim and a premises liability claim against Cintas.
Plaintiffs bring their product liability claim under a
negligence theory and argue that Cintas breached a duty to
Ms. Rushton in “leasing, renting, and installing on the
premises a defective [mat] that would develop ripples.”
(ECF No. 23 at 2 ¶ 12(a).) Under South Carolina law,
“. . . in order to find liability under any products
liability theory, the plaintiff must show: (1) he was injured
by the product; (2) the injury occurred because the product
was in a defective condition, unreasonably dangerous to the
user; and (3) that the product at the time of the accident
was in essentially the same condition as when it left the
hands of the defendant.” Bragg v. Hi-Ranger,
Inc., 462 S.E.2d 321, 326 (S.C. Ct. App. 1995) (citing
Madden v. Cox, 328 S.E.2d 108, 112 (S.C. Ct. ...