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Royse v. Wal-Mart Stores East LP

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

June 4, 2019

EMERSON ROYCE, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, LP, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          HOLLY A. BRADY JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 23), filed along with its Brief in Support (ECF No. 24) and Designation of Evidence (ECF No. 25) on January 24, 2019. Plaintiff filed his Response to Defendant's Motion and Request for Hearing (ECF No. 30) and his Brief in Opposition (ECF No. 31) on March 20, 2019. Defendant filed its Reply in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 33) on April 3, 2019. The issue now being ripe for ruling, Defendant's Motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This matter arises out of a slip and fall incident involving Plaintiff at Defendant's store in Marion, Indiana, (the “Store”) on October 16, 2016. Plaintiff was at the Store to purchase groceries with his daughter and granddaughter. It had been raining that day, but it was not raining at the time the three arrived at the Store. As the three were walking towards the cashiers at the front of the Store, Plaintiff passed the jewelry counter where he slipped on a puddle of water. Plaintiff describes the puddle as being approximately the size of an 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper. Witness statements obtained by Defendant after the incident confirmed that Plaintiff slipped on water on the floor. Plaintiff does not know where the water came from, how long it had been on the floor, or whether any of Defendant's employees were aware of the water prior to his fall.

         Plaintiff's fall was captured on Defendant's in-store security camera system. Plaintiff describes the security camera footage as follows:

In addition, the surveillance footage also documents that immediately prior to Mr. Royse's fall, four separate Wal-Mart employees were in and around the area where Mr. Royse fell: at 1:53:18 p.m., a Wal-Mart employee wearing a yellow vest walks through area where Mr. Royse fell; at 1:53:54 p.m., a Wal-Mart employee wearing a blue vest returns to the cashier area of the jewelry department and remains there until Mr. Royse falls; at 1:54:55 p.m., a second Wal-Mart employee wearing a yellow vest walks through the area where Mr. Royse fell; and at 1:55:40, a second Wal-Mart employee wearing a blue vest returns to the jewelry department and joins the first blue-vested-employee behind the jewelry counter.

(ECF No. 31 at 4). Plaintiff is seen falling at 1:55:49 on the security camera footage. At no point is the puddle visible on the video. In fact, it would appear from a viewing of the video that whatever he slipped on was just out of frame.

         It is undisputed that Defendant had at the time of the fall extensive policies and procedures requiring employees to monitor the condition of the floors and assure that the floors were safe for customers. Those policies and procedures required employees to monitor the area of Plaintiff's fall “frequently” and “continuously.” (Id. at 5, 6). The policies and procedures also required employees to clean any spills they discovered. Finally, the policies and procedures required that caution cones be placed at the entrance to the Store in the event of wet weather.

         LEGAL ANALYSIS

         A. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Although state law provides the substantive law in a diversity action, the summary judgment procedure is governed by federal law. Maroules v. Jumbo, Inc., 452 N.E.3d 639, 645 (7th Cir. 2006). Twenty-five years ago, the Indiana Supreme Court observed, rightly, that the Indiana state summary judgment standard and the federal summary judgment standard are very different.

Under Indiana's standard, the party seeking summary judgment must demonstrate the absence of any genuine issue of fact as to a determinative issue, and only then is the non-movant required to come forward with contrary evidence.
* * *
In this respect, Indiana's summary judgment procedure abruptly diverges from federal summary judgment practice. Under the federal rule, the party seeking summary judgment is not required to negate an opponent's claim. The movant need only inform the court of the basis of the motion and identify relevant portions of the record which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. The burden then rests upon the non-moving party to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of each ...

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