United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. Atkins United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment and Motion for Partial Summary Judgment,
pursuant to FED. R. Civ. P. 56. [R. 13, 20]. Plaintiff
submitted her response on both motions. [R. 15, 21].
Defendant also submitted a reply brief for both responses.
[R. 17, 24]. The issues being fully briefed are now ripe for
review. For the following reasons, the Court
DENIES Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment but GRANTS Defendant's Motion
for Partial Summary Judgment.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
following facts are undisputed between the parties. This case
arises from a slip and fall incident which occurred on
December 24, 2016, at Steak 'n Shake, Inc. ("Steak
'n Shake") in Lexington, Kentucky during regular
business hours. On this date, Plaintiff Margaret Tracye
Cooper, her boyfriend, and his family dined in Steak 'n
Shake. Upon arriving at the restaurant, Cooper and her guests
entered Steak 'n Shake through a vestibule area and then
into the restaurant, escaping the rain. During their meal,
several other patrons entered and exited through the same
doors, tracking in water from the rain. After approximately
an hour and a half of dining, Cooper's guests exited the
restaurant through the same doors they entered without issue,
while Cooper ordered a to-go cup of coffee and paid for their
meal. As Cooper exited the restaurant, she failed to step on
the floor mat in the vestibule, causing her to slip on the
wet tile and fall. The tile beside the smaller floor mat in
the vestibule was wet from rain residue tracked in by patrons
of Steak 'n Shake. No. wet floor sign was set out or
visible before Cooper fell. Cooper was taken to the hospital
to treat her injuries.
December 20, 2017, Cooper filed this lawsuit in Fayette
Circuit Court against Steak 'n Shake, alleging
negligence. [R. 1 at 1]. The case was timely removed to the
United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Kentucky. [R. 1 at 1-3]. Following the consent of both
parties, this case was assigned to this Court by the District
Court. [R. 6-7]. Cooper seeks compensatory damages for her
personal injury suffered. [R. 1-1]. Steak 'n Shake now
asks this Court to grant its motions for summary judgment and
partial summary judgment. [R. 13; R. 20].
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate only where there is no issue of
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The initial burden is on
the moving party to demonstrate the basis for summary
judgment and identify 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 moving party can satisfy its burden by
demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the
non-movant's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 325 (1986). To avoid summary judgment, the
non-movant must come forward with evidence on which a jury
could reasonably find in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). The non-movant
must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence to defeat
a motion for summary judgment. Street v. J.C Bradford
& Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir. 1989). The
Court must then determine "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." Booker v. Brown & Williamson
Tobacco Co., 879 F.2d 1304, 1310 (6th Cir. 1989). The
Court views all the evidence in the light most favorable to
the party opposing summary judgment. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
(1986). Summary judgment is inappropriate where there is a
genuine conflict "in the evidence, with affirmative
support on both sides, and where the question is which
witness to believe." Logan v. Denny's,
Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001).
maintains a single claim of negligence against Steak 'n
Shake under a premises liability theory. [R. 1-1]. To prevail
on a negligence claim under Kentucky law, the plaintiff must
establish that (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of
care, (2) the defendant breached the standard of care, (3)
the defendant's negligence was both the actual and
proximate cause of (4) the plaintiffs damages suffered.
Pathways, Inc. v. Hammons, 113 S.W.3d 85, 88-89 (Ky.
2003). With premises liability, the type of duty owed depends
in part on the status of the person coming onto the premises.
In this case, as a customer, Cooper clearly entered the
premises as an invitee and Steak 'n Shake owned the
property, meaning it owed a duty to all invitees to exercise
ordinary care to maintain its store in a reasonably safe
condition or to warn about foreseeable dangerous conditions
that are latent, unknown or not obvious. Lucas v. Gateway
Community Service Organization, Inc., 343 S.W.3d 341,
343 (Ky. Ct. App. 2011). However, the landowner does not owe
the injured party a duty as it relates to conditions that are
open and obvious. Kentucky River Medical Center v.
McIntosh, 319 S.W.3d 385, 388 (Ky. 2010). Moreover, an
invitee must exercise ordinary care to avoid dangers that are
known or could be reasonably anticipated. Id.
presents a question of law, whereas breach and injury are
questions of fact for the jury to decide . . . [and]
[c]ausation presents a mixed question of law and fact."
Patton v. Bickford, 529 S.W.3d 717, 729 (Ky. 2016).
A court is precluded from entering summary judgment in favor
of a defendant where there remains "a genuine dispute as
to any material fact concerning the elements of duty, breach,
or causation, such that a reasonable jury could find that
[the defendant] was negligent." Johnson v. Wal-Mart
Stores East, LP, 169 F.Supp.3d 700, 703 (E.D. Ky. 2016).
As the party moving for summary judgment, Steak 'n Shake
must shoulder the burden of showing the absence of a genuine
dispute of material fact as to at least one essential element
of Cooper's claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also
Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746 F.3d 714, 726 (6th Cir.
2014) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). Assuming
Steak 'n Shake satisfies its burden of production, Cooper
"must-by deposition, answers to interrogatories,
affidavits, and admission on file-show facts that reveal a
genuine issue for trial." Laster, 746 F.3d at
726. This is a slip and fall case involving a commercial
business, Steak 'n Shake, and a patron of one of its
restaurants, Cooper. Accordingly, this Court looks to
Kentucky law concerning premises liability and the duties and
responsibilities placed upon business owners with respect to
Steak 'n Shake's Motion for Summary Judgment
'n Shake's arguments concerning summary judgment
focus on the duty, breach, and causation elements. [R. 13,
17]. Steak 'n Shake contends that it is entitled to
summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) it did not breach
its duty of care because there was no unreasonably dangerous
condition which it had to eliminate or warn against; (2)
there was no duty owed to Cooper because the wet floor was an
open and obvious danger; and (3) Cooper failed to exercise
reasonable care to prevent her injury. [R. 13 at 87-88].
Dangerous Condition Concerning the Wet Vestibule
general negligence law requires the existence of a duty,
premises liability law supplies the nature and scope of that
duty when dealing with tort injuries on realty."
Lewis v. B&R Corp.,56 S.W.3d 432, 437-38 (Ky.
Ct. App. 2001). Under premises liability, "the owner of
a premises to which the public is invited has a general duty
to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises in a
reasonably safe condition and warn invitees of dangers that
are latent, unknown or not obvious." Id. at
438. A business is liable to its patrons for negligence if it
"fails to use reasonable care under the circumstances to
discover the foreseeable dangerous condition and to correct
it or to warn customers of its existence." Lanier v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,99 S.W.3d 431, 437 (Ky. 2003). In
other words, "a property owner, such as [Steak 'n
Shake], must exercise reasonable care to protect invitees,
such as [Cooper], from hazardous conditions that the property
owner knew or should have discovered and that the invitee
could not be expected to discover." Denny v. Steakn
Shake Operations, Inc.,559 Fed.Appx. 485, 487 (6th Cir.
2014) (citing Lanier, 99 ...