United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION
Rosenthal Chief United States District Judge.
plaintiff, Jose Santana Medrano, slipped and fell on a wet
floor while shopping at a Home Depot store in Houston, Texas.
Mr. Medrano sued Home Depot International, Inc. and Home
Depot USA, Inc., asserting negligence claims and seeking
damages for back injuries. Based on a careful review of the
motion, response, reply, surreply, and sur-surreply; the
record; and the relevant law, Home Depot's summary
judgment motion is granted. The reasons are set out below.
September 2014, Mr. Medrano entered a Home Depot store in
Houston, Texas. (Docket Entry No. 23, Ex. 1). He slipped on
water near the front service desk and injured his back and
hips. (Docket Entry No. 25, Ex. 3 at 6).
Delgado, a Home Depot employee who witnessed the incident,
stated in her affidavit that Mr. Medrano was walking behind a
floor-cleaning machine operated by Prestige Maintenance USA,
which Home Depot has designated as a responsible third party
under Texas law. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code
Ann. § 33.004 (West 2014); (Docket Entry No. 23, Ex. 2
at 1). Ms. Delgado stated that the floor-cleaning machine
“uses water to clean the floor.” (Docket Entry
No. 23, Ex. 2 at 1). She saw that Mr. Medrano “had
slipped on the watery residue that was left behind by the
floor cleaning machine.” (Id.). Ms. Delgado
prepared an incident report that Mr. Medrano signed
immediately after the incident. (Id., Ex. 1). Mr.
Medrano later stated that he could not read English and had
signed the form without having it read to him. (Docket Entry
No. 25, Ex. 1 at 1). Mr. Medrano stated that he slipped on a
“2 foot x 3 foot puddle of water” near the
service desk, (id.), and that it had been raining
that day. (Id., Ex. 3 at 6). He stated that
he did not see a floor-cleaning machine and saw no signs or
mats near the service desk where he fell. (Id., Ex.
1 at 2).
Medrano sued Home Depot International, Inc. and Home Depot
USA, Inc. under a premises-liability theory. (Docket Entry
No. 19). After discovery, the Home Depot defendants moved for
summary judgment. (Docket Entry No. 23). Mr. Medrano
responded, Home Depot replied, Mr. Medrano filed a surreply,
and Home Depot responded to the surreply. (Docket Entry Nos.
25, 27, 29, 30). Each argument is analyzed under the
applicable legal standards.
The Applicable Legal Standards
judgment is required when ‘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.'”
Trent v. Wade, 776 F.3d 368, 376 (5th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). “A genuine dispute of
material fact exists when the ‘evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.'” Nola Spice Designs, LLC v. Haydel
Enters., Inc., 783 F.3d 527, 536 (5th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242,
248 (1986)). “The moving party ‘bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.'” Id.
(quoting EEOC v. LHC Grp., Inc., 773 F.3d 688, 694
(5th Cir. 2014)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
the non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial, the movant
may merely point to the absence of evidence and thereby shift
to the non-movant the burden of demonstrating by competent
summary judgment proof that there is an issue of material
fact warranting trial.” Id. (quotation marks
omitted); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.
Although the party moving for summary judgment must
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact,
it does not need to negate the elements of the
nonmovant's case. Boudreaux v. Swift Transp.
Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005). “A fact is
‘material' if its resolution in favor of one party
might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing
law.” Sossamon v. Lone Star State of Texas,
560 F.3d 316, 326 (5th Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted).
“If the moving party fails to meet [its] initial
burden, the motion [for summary judgment] must be denied,
regardless of the nonmovant's response.” United
States v. $92, 203.00 in U.S. Currency, 537 F.3d 504,
507 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting Little v. Liquid Air
Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc) (per
the moving party [meets its initial burden], the nonmoving
party must ‘go beyond the pleadings and by her own
affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.'” Nola Spice, 783 F.3d at 536
(quoting LHC Grp., 773 F.3d at 694). The nonmovant
must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate
how that evidence supports that party's claim.
Baranowski v. Hart, 486 F.3d 112, 119 (5th Cir.
2007). “This burden will not be satisfied by
‘some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by
conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by
only a scintilla of evidence.'” Boudreaux,
402 F.3d at 540 (quoting Little, 37 F.3d at 1075).
In deciding a summary-judgment motion, the court draws all
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Connors v. Graves, 538 F.3d 373,
376 (5th Cir. 2008); see also Nola Spice, 783 F.3d
Texas law, a property owner owes an invitee a duty to protect
the invitee from dangerous conditions that are known or
reasonably discoverable. CMH Homes, Inc. v. Daenen,
15 S.W.3d 97, 101 (Tex. 2000). The property owner is not,
however, an insurer of the invitee's safety. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc. v. Reece, 81 S.W.3d 812, 814 (Tex. 2002);
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Gonzalez, 968 S.W.2d 934,
936 (Tex. 1998). A plaintiff asserting premises liability
must show that: (1) the owner or occupier had actual or
constructive knowledge of a condition on the premises; (2)
the condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm; (3) the
owner or occupier did not exercise reasonable care to reduce
or eliminate the risk; and (4) the owner or occupier's
failure to use such care proximately caused the
plaintiff's injury. CMH Homes, 15 S.W.3d at 99.
“A slip-and-fall plaintiff satisfies the notice element
by establishing that (1) the defendant placed the substance
on the floor, (2) the defendant actually knew that the
substance was on the floor, or (3) it is more likely than not
that the condition existed long enough to give the premises
owner a reasonable opportunity to discover it.”
Reece, 81 S.W.3d at 814.