United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE
Plaintiff, Ronald Brewer, sued Defendant United States Steel
Corporation for negligence after he slipped and fell inside a
building on its premises. This matter is before the Court on
the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 59].
For the reasons stated below, the Motion is denied.
February 10, 2015, the Plaintiff's job as a truck driver
for MDI Transportation brought him to the Defendant's
premises, where he was scheduled to remove and transport an
old copier machine. The Plaintiff, accompanied by a
co-worker, drove onto the property and checked in with Mike
Kramer, an employee of U.S. Steel in the IT department.
Kramer was the Plaintiff's contact at the Defendant's
facility. He authorized all the Plaintiff's pickups and
deliveries and provided relevant instructions. On February
10, 2015, Kramer, driving in his own vehicle, escorted the
Plaintiff to the building several miles away that housed the
instructed by Kramer, the Plaintiff backed his truck up to
the building's large overhead door. He exited the truck,
walked to the back and assisted his co-worker in removing the
equipment from the truck that would be necessary to complete
the pickup. This included a stair walker and a roll of shrink
wrap. As the Plaintiff walked into the large warehouse type
building with the stair walker, he noticed that none of the
lights were on. After walking about fifteen feet, he also
noticed snow and ice on the ground. In fact, the Plaintiff
had already walked through a section of snow with ice
underneath it. The Plaintiff asked Kramer if it cleared
up further into the building. Kramer indicated that icy
conditions existed throughout the building. The Plaintiff
learned that the Defendant was not using the facility, and a
pipe had burst inside the building. The Plaintiff expressed
that it would not be safe to continue to retrieve the copier.
Kramer and others who were on site discussed other potential
options, but the Plaintiff had already decided that he would
not be completing the job that day, especially since it
involved bringing a heavy piece of equipment down a couple
flights of stairs that was still another one hundred yards
away from where he was standing.
made his decision, the Plaintiff turned around and walked
back toward his truck. As he walked through the section of
snow, he lost his footing and fell. When asked during his
deposition why he walked back through the snow, the Plaintiff
replied, “we had to walk through it to get out”
and there was “no other way.” (Mem. in Supp, of
Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. A, Pl.'s Dep. 58, ECF No. 60-1;
see also id., at 60 (“That was the only path
to get back to the truck.”).) When asked why he did not
ask Kramer to make the conditions safe before walking through
it, the Plaintiff explained, “that little area we
didn't think was dangerous enough at that time, you know.
I didn't think that the whole warehouse was gonna be iced
and snowed down.” (Id. at 64.) He acknowledged
that Kramer had, on previous occasions, responded to his
request to clear an area, such as when water was puddled on
the floor. He did not ask Kramer to clear up the patch,
because he was just trying to leave, and did not think it
would be hazardous to walk such a short distance, especially
since he had already traversed it once and not lost his
footing. He also considered the fact that Kramer had not
thought it appropriate to clear it up beforehand, or taken
the initiative to stop them from coming into to the warehouse
in the first place as other reasons for not asking Kramer to
clear the patch of ice and snow to exit.
judgment is proper when the moving party “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 “material fact” is one that
“might affect the outcome of the suit.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). The Court views the facts in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party and all reasonable inferences are
drawn in the non-movant's favor. Ault v.
Speicher, 634 F.3d 942, 945 (7th Cir. 2011).
the Court's jurisdiction over this case is predicated
upon diversity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332, it
“must apply the law of the state as it believes the
highest court of the state would apply it if the issue were
presently before that tribunal.” State Farm Mut.
Auto. Ins. Co. v. Pate, 275 F.3d 666, 669 (7th Cir.
2001). “When the state Supreme Court has not decided
the issue, the rulings of the state intermediate appellate
courts must be accorded great weight, unless there are
persuasive indications that the state's highest court
would decide the case differently.” Id.
Plaintiff's negligence claim requires him to prove that
the Defendant owed him a duty and breached that duty,
resulting in damages. Rhodes v. Wright, 805 N.E.2d
382, 385 (Ind. 2004). The parties do not dispute that the
Plaintiff's status as a business invitee on the
Defendant's premises imposed on the Defendant a duty to
exercise reasonable care for the Plaintiff's protection.
See Burrell v. Meads, 569 N.E.2d 637, 639-40 (Ind.
1991) (describing duties owed by landowner); Douglass v.
Irvin, 549 N.E.2d 368, 369 (Ind. 1990) (holding that a
property owner must maintain its property in a reasonably
safe condition for business invitees).
has borrowed from, and adopted, Section 343 of the
Restatement (Second) of Torts to supply the features of that
duty. It provides that a landowner is liable for personal
injuries suffered by his invitee because of a condition on
the land “if, but only if, ” the landowner:
(a) knows or by the exercise of reasonable care would
discover the condition, and should realize that it involves
an unreasonable risk of harm to such invitees, and
(b) should expect that they will not discover or realize the
danger, or will fail to protect ...