Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Garcia v. Wal-Mart Stores Texas LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

June 9, 2017

LEONCIO GARCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES TEXAS LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          VANESSA D. GILMORE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Instrument No. 21).

         I.

         A.

         Plaintiff Leoncio Garcia ("Plaintiff) brought suit against Defendant Wal-Mart Stores Texas, LLC ("Defendant"), for injuries sustained in a slip and fall at a Wal-Mart Store. Plaintiff seeks recovery under a premises liability theory, alleging that Defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of an unreasonably dangerous condition on its premises, Defendant failed to eliminate the condition or warn Plaintiff about the condition, and Defendant's failure to prevent or eliminate a known dangerously defective condition was the proximate cause of the injuries Plaintiff suffered. Defendant denies these claims and asserts that it is entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff has no evidence that Defendant possessed actual or constructive knowledge of an unreasonably dangerous condition on its property prior to the incident.

         B.

         Plaintiff resides in Harris County, Texas. Defendant is a Delaware limited liability company formed on or about June 26, 2007, and the owner of Wal-Mart Store No. 772 located at 3506 High 6 South, Houston Texas, 77082 (the "Walmart Store No.772"). Walmart Store No. 772 is a "Supercenter" that offers customers a variety of products and services such as a Garden Center, Gas Station, Grocery, McDonalds, Pharmacy, 1-Hour Photo Center, Tire and Lube, and a Vision Center.

         Plaintiff visited Wal-Mart Store No. 772 on the morning of June 9, 2015, to grab a cup of coffee. (Instrument No. 1 at 3; Instrument No. 26 at 2). Plaintiff claims that as he entered the store at 6:21 a.m., he stepped onto a puddle of clear liquid (presumably water), slipped and fell awkwardly to the floor, thereby injuring his knee. (Instrument No. 26-1 at 1).

         At 5:55 am, Defendant's surveillance video shows a store employee or contractor arriving on the scene operating what appears to be a large "auto scrubber" machine. (Instrument No.21-3; Instrument No. 26-5). Plaintiff notes that the machine resembles a jet ski or an ice resurfacing machine used at ice skating and hockey rinks, commonly known as a "Zamboni". (Instrument No. 26 at 2). Plaintiff alleges that while the auto scrubber was scrubbing, cleaning, drying, or waxing the floor's surface, he stopped momentarily on the wet spot where the accident would later occur and left the area without checking the floor for wet spots. Id. at 2. Plaintiff admits that it is not clear from viewing the video if the scrubber operator caused or allowed a liquid to spill; if he saw the wet spot but decided to disregard it; or merely failed to see the wet spot. Id. at 3. Nonetheless, Plaintiff notes that the operator did not place any ropes, cones or warning signs in the area. Id. In addition, the Plaintiff states that the operator did not check the floor for wet spots prior to leaving the area. Id. Furthermore, Plaintiff asserts that other Wal- Mart employees and/ or contractors walked by and through the accident scene, but none looked down to inspect the floor for wet spots or spills in accordance with the Defendant's safety policies and procedures. Id. The area of the slip was pointed out to Defendant's employees after the fall, and an employee (Ms. Beth Dillard) thereafter put a cone down where she saw the liquid and cleaned it. (Instrument No. 32 at 4).

         Defendant's surveillance video also shows that from 5:59 a.m. up until the time of Plaintiff's incident at 6:21 a.m. numerous customers walked directly over the area where Plaintiff fell, and two McDonald's employees pulled large trash bins directly over the same area. (Instrument No.21-3; Instrument No. 26-5).

         In his Original Complaint, Plaintiff asserts Defendant owed a duty to Plaintiff to timely prevent or eliminate any unsafe conditions caused by a premises defect. (Instrument No. 1-2 at 4). Specifically, Plaintiff argues that Defendant had a duty to timely and adequately: (a) inspect the floors in the area of the store where the accident occurred and thereby detect that there was a puddle of liquid on the floor; and (b) after having actual or constructive knowledge that the floor was wet and slippery, take measures to (i) eliminate the known hazard by promptly drying the floor; or (ii) warn customers to "stay clear" of the puddle until a maintenance employee came to dry the floor. Id. Plaintiff contends that Defendant had actual or constructive knowledge that the puddle had formed because they were near the place of the incident at the entrance of the store. Id. Plaintiff posits that Defendant's policy & procedures manual shows that Defendant's employees were duty bound to be ever vigilant of floor safety as they moved about the store; to do "visual sweeps"; and to promptly clean up any spills. (Instrument No. 32 at 11). Plaintiff notes that in the video, several workers can be seen ambling by and near what would become the accident scene during the thirty minutes that preceded the incident were not paying any attention at all to the alleged condition of the floor Id. Plaintiff further notes that Defendant's policy manual regarding floor cleaning contemplates that the use of the auto scrubbers could leave behind water trails or puddles on the floor; and therefore, Defendant had a duty to take certain precautions, such as posting "wet floor" warning signs and mopping up after the auto scrubber's wake. (Instrument No. 26 at 10; Instrument No. 32 at 12). Plaintiff contends that Defendant's failure to prevent or eliminate the defective condition at Wal-Mart Store No. 772 was the proximate cause of Plaintiffs injuries, and Defendant is therefore liable to Plaintiff for the totality of his bodily injuries. (Instrument No. 1-2 at 5).

         In Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant argues that there is no evidence that Defendant possessed actual or constructive knowledge of an unreasonably dangerous condition at Wal-Mart Store No 772. (Instrument No. 21 at 3). In addition, Defendant contends that there are several possible ways the condition could have been created. (Instrument No. 33 at 12). For instance, in addition to the auto scrubber, Defendant's video surveillance depicts several customers entering and exiting directly over the area where Plaintiffs incident would subsequently occur. (Instrument No.21-3). Furthermore, the video also shows two McDonalds employees pulling trash bins through the same area prior to the Plaintiffs incident. Id. Defendant argues that the puddle of clear liquid could have been created by either the customers who traversed across the area or by the McDonalds employees who pushed trash bin through the area. (Instrument No. 33 at 13). As such, Defendant asserts that no genuine issue of material fact exists regarding whether Defendant had actual knowledge of the alleged condition, and summary judgment is proper on the actual knowledge component of Plaintiffs premises liability claim. (Instrument No. 21 at 7).

         Defendant further argues that summary judgment is proper because Plaintiff cannot provide any evidence that Defendant had constructive notice of the condition. (Instrument No 21 at 3). Defendant asserts that Plaintiff has not provided sufficient temporal evidence that the dangerous condition existed long enough prior to the incident to give Defendant a reasonable opportunity to discover and remedy the condition. Id. at 7. Defendant posits that Plaintiffs arguments on the proximity of Defendant's associates to the area where Plaintiffs incident occurred and alleged violations of Defendant's internal policies is not legally sufficient to support a finding of constructive notice. (Instrument No 33 at 3). Defendant argues that without temporal evidence, there is no basis upon which the fact finder can reasonably assess the opportunity the premises owner had to discover the dangerous condition. Id. at 2.

         Defendant further contends that even if it could be demonstrated that the auto scrubber created the dangerous condition, surveillance video shows that it would have existed for twenty-six minutes before Plaintiffs incident, a duration that is ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.