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McCord v. The T.J. Maxx Companies, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division

August 2, 2017

JOYCE McCORD PLAINTIFF
v.
THE T.J. MAXX COMPANIES, INC. DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          DAVID L. BUNNING UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Defendant, T.J. Maxx Companies, Inc. (“T.J. Maxx”), moves for summary judgment against Plaintiff Joyce McCord, arguing that Plaintiff has nto stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. # 9). The Motion for Summary Judgment is fully briefed (Docs. # 10 and 11) and ripe for review. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. For the reasons that follow, T.J. Maxx's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted and Plaintiff's claims are dismissed.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On April 17, 2016, Plaintiff Joyce McCord, who was eighty-five-years-old at the time, was shopping at T.J. Maxx in Florence, Kentucky. While shopping at T.J. Maxx for approximately an hour and a half, the Plaintiff decided to purchase dog food, and tried on several articles of clothing she intended to purchase. (Doc. # 10-1 at 16:12-22). In her first trip to the fitting room, the Plaintiff tried on a pair of pajamas. Id. The Plaintiff continued to look around and found a blouse she was interested in purchasing. Id. at 16:19-22. As she reentered the fitting room, the Plaintiff slipped and fell. Id. at 16:24-25.

         No T.J. Maxx employee, or other customers, saw Plaintiff fall. (Doc. # 9-1 at 69:15-70:10; 73:3-25). However, shortly after the Plaintiff fell, Ashley Kidwell, an employee, saw the Plaintiff laying on the ground, and Kelly Roush, the manager on duty, came into the fitting room to assist the Plaintiff. Id. at 68:17-23; 73:22-25. Neither the Plaintiff nor any T.J. Maxx employees observed any foreign substances on the floor before or after the fall. Id. at 69:13-14. Nevertheless, the Plaintiff contends that she slipped, and therefore, there must have been something on the floor. (Doc. # 10 at 6).

         On May 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed suit against T.J. Maxx in Boone County Circuit Court, asserting a claim for negligence. (Doc. # 1-2 at 2-3). Specifically, the Plaintiff alleges that T.J. Maxx violated its duty to maintain safe premises for the use of their business invitees, and that as a result, the Plaintiff sustained injuries. Id. at 2. On March I, 2017, T.J. Maxx removed this action to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). (Doc. # 1). On April 20, 2017, T.J. Maxx filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment, seeking judgment as a matter of law and arguing that the Plaintiff has failed to establish an essential element of her claim-the existence of a foreign substance on the floor. (Doc. # 9).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record reveals “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 genuine dispute of material fact exists where “there is sufficient evidence … for a jury to return a verdict for” the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The “moving party bears the burden of showing the absence of any genuine issues of material fact.” Sigler v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 532 F.3d 469, 483 (6th Cir. 2008). Once a party files a properly supported motion for summary judgment, by either affirmatively negating an essential element of the non-moving party's claim or establishing an affirmative defense, “the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. However, “the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient.” Id. at 252.

         The Court must “accept Plaintiff's evidence as true and draw all reasonable inferences in [her] favor.” Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746 F.3d 714, 726 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). The Court is not permitted to “make credibility determinations” or “weigh the evidence when determining whether an issue of fact remains for trial.” Id. (citing Logan v. Denny's, Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001)). “The ultimate question is ‘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.'” Back v. Nestle USA, Inc., 694 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52). If there is a dispute over facts that might affect the outcome of the case under governing law, the entry of summary judgment is precluded. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         As the party moving for summary judgment, T.J. Maxx must shoulder the burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact as to at least one essential element of Plaintiff's claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Laster, 746 F.3d at 726 (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). Assuming T.J. Maxx satisfies its burden, the Plaintiff “must-by deposition, answers to interrogatories, affidavits, and admissions on file-show specific facts that reveal a genuine issue for trial.” Laster, 746 F.3d at 726 (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324).

         B. The Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         To prevail on a negligence claim under Kentucky law, the Plaintiff must prove: (1) that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, (2) breach of that duty, and (3) that the breach was the legal causation of the consequent injury. Pathways, Inc. v. Hammons, 113 S.W.3d 85, 88-89 (Ky. 2003); Wright v. House of Imports, Inc., 381 S.W.3d 209, 213 (Ky. 2012). The existence of a duty is a question of law for the court to decide, breach and injury are questions of fact for the jury to determine. Pathways, 113 S.W.3d at 89.

         In the premises-liability context, “a property owner, such as [T.J. Maxx], must exercise reasonable care to protect invitees, such as Plaintiff, from hazardous conditions that the property owner knew about or should have discovered and that the invitee could not be expected to discover.” Denney v. Steak N Shake Operations, Inc., 559 F.App'x 485, 487 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Lanier v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 99 S.W.3d 431, 432-33 (Ky. 2003)). Therefore, the first element-the existence of a duty-has been ...


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