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McCoy v. Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

March 5, 2019

JOYCE MCCOY and ORVILLE MCCOY, Plaintiffs,
v.
LAKE CUMBERLAND REGIONAL HOSPITAL, LLC, d/b/a LAKE CUMBERLAND MEDICAL ASSOCIATES, ALC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital's Motion for Summary Judgment. [R. 44.] Plaintiff Joyce McCoy fell entering a medical facility owned by Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital and asserts that the cause of her fall was a thick mat covering an abrupt change in elevation. However, Plaintiffs cannot point to any evidence, other than their own depositions, to support such a theory. Because Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

         I

         The facts in this matter are largely undisputed. Joyce McCoy accompanied her husband, Orville McCoy, to Lake Cumberland Medical Associates (LCMA) on January 10, 2017, a building owned by Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital (LCRH). [R. 54 at 1.] Mr. McCoy drove Ms. McCoy to the entrance of LCMA, where she walked approximately twenty-five feet from the car in the direction of the entrance. Id. While approaching the entrance, she fell, resulting in fractures to her right shoulder and left wrist. Id. An employee of LCMA called the paramedics. Id. at 2.

         What the parties debate is why Ms. McCoy fell. According to the EMS run report, Ms. McCoy told paramedics that she tripped over a garbage bag. [R. 44-3 at 2.] Ms. McCoy was transported to LCRH, where the hospital's triage report indicates she slipped on a plastic bag. [R. 44-5 at 2.] Notes from her treating physician at LCRH, Dr. Alpen Patel, show that Ms. McCoy told him she slipped on a plastic garbage bag. [R. 44-6 at 2.] Dr. Patel referred her to an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Daniel R. Yanicko, who also reported that she slipped on a plastic garbage bag, but he admits he probably received this information from Dr. Patel. [R. 44-9 at 2; R. 44-10 at 11.] Ms. McCoy now denies telling anyone her fall was caused in any way by a plastic or garbage bag. [R. 54 at 3.]

         Instead, Ms. McCoy now claims that her fall resulted from a hazardous condition at the entrance to LCMA. [R. 1-1 at 6.] According to her theory, LCMA placed a mat in front of the entrance, concealing an unlevel expansion joint and an abrupt change in elevation. [R. 54 at 4.] She attributes her fall and subsequent injuries to that hidden slope. Id. Experts hired by Mr. and Ms. McCoy established that the combination of the mat, slope, and expansion joint constitutes an unreasonably dangerous condition, and the elevation change should have been accompanied by a warning. Id. at 4-5. However, she later testified at her deposition that she did not see the mat or elevation change until someone returned to take pictures of the area after her fall. [R. 44-2 at 13-14.] Both Mr. and Ms. McCoy sued LCMA and LCRH for negligence, specifically for failure to maintain the sidewalk and entrance area. [R. 1-1 at 6-8.] Mr. McCoy joined the suit seeking damages for loss of spousal consortium. Id.

         II

         A

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is appropriate “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 genuine dispute exists on a material fact, and thus summary judgment is improper, if the evidence shows ‘that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Olinger v. Corp. of the President of the Church, 521 F.Supp.2d 577, 582 (E.D. Ky. 2007) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). Stated otherwise, “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the Plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the Plaintiff.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252.

         The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating the basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the record that establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Chao v. Hall Holding Co., Inc., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). The movant may satisfy its burden by showing “that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the movant has satisfied this burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and come forward with specific facts demonstrating the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). Moreover, “the nonmoving party must do more than show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact. It must present significant probative evidence in support of its opposition to the motion for summary judgment.” Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (internal citations omitted).

         When applying the summary judgment standard, the Court must review the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Logan v. Denny's, Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255). However, the Court is under no duty to “search the entire record to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Morris, 260 F.3d 654, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). Rather, “the nonmoving party has an affirmative duty to direct the court's attention to those specific portions of the record upon which it seeks to rely to create a genuine issue of material fact.” Id.

         B

         This case comes to this Court on removal from Pulaski Circuit Court in Pulaski, County, Kentucky.[1] [R. 1.] Therefore, while federal law governs the summary judgment standard and procedure in this case, Kentucky law controls as to the substantive elements of liability. Hanna v. Plumer, 380 U.S. 460, 465 (1965); Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938). In Kentucky, to succeed on a claim for negligence, a plaintiff must prove an existing duty by the defendants, a breach of that duty, damages, and that the breach of the existing duty was the proximate cause of the alleged damages. Helton v. Montgomery, 595 S.W.2d 257, 258 (Ky. Ct. App. 1980). Negligence must be affirmatively proven and cannot be presumed. Id. LCRH does not contest that Ms. McCoy was a business invitee to LCMA.

         Specifically, for premises liability cases such as this, Kentucky employs ...


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