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Medrano v. Home Depot International, Inc.

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

June 16, 2017



          Lee H. Rosenthal Chief United States District Judge.

         The 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.

         I. Background

         In 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).

         Cinthia 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.[1] (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).

         Mr. 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).[2] Each argument is analyzed under the applicable legal standards.

         II. The Applicable Legal Standards

         A. Summary Judgment

         “Summary 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).

         “Where 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 curiam)).

         “Once 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 at 536.

         B. Premises Liability

         Under 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.

         III. ...

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