United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
SAN JUANITA GALVAN, Plaintiff.
FAMILY DOLLAR, INC.; RUTH GRAHM; FAMILY DOLLAR STORES OF TEXAS, LLC, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. EDISON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
a trip-and-fall case. Plaintiff San Juanita Galvan
("Galvan") claims that she "was seriously
injured on and about her body while walking into a retail
store owned by Family Dollar[, ] Inc. and Family Dollar
Stores of Texas[, ] LLC called Family Dollar. Family Dollar
is also referred to as Store 7216 located in Galveston,
Texas." Dkt. 16 at 3. Galvan has sued three parties for
premises liability and negligence: (1) Ruth Grahm, in her
capacity as Trustee of Grahm Marital Deduction Trust and
Grahm Exempt Unified Credit Trust ("Ruth Grahm");
(2) Family Dollar Stores of Texas, LLC; and (3) Family
Dollar, Inc. has moved for summary judgment on a number of
grounds, most notably that it had nothing whatsoever to do
with the incident in dispute. See Dkt. 57. Family
Dollar, Inc. notes that it neither owns nor leases the
property where the alleged trip-and-fall took place. Indeed,
there is no dispute that Ruth Grahm is the sole owner of the
property where the alleged accident occurred. It is also
uncontested that Family Dollar Stores of Texas, LLC-not
Family Dollar, Inc.-leases the premises in question from Ruth
judgment is proper only when it appears that there is no
genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Reingold
v. Swiftships, Inc., 126 F.3d 645, 646 (5th Cir. 1997)
(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). "The movant bears the burden
of identifying those portions of the record it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact." Triple Tee Golf, Inc. V. Nike, Inc., 485
F.3d 253, 261 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing Celotex Corp. v.
Carter, 477 U.S. 317, 322-25 (1986)). Once a movant
submits a properly supported motion, the burden shifts to the
nonmovant to show that the Court should not grant the motion.
See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 321-25. The nonmovant
then must provide specific facts showing that there is a
genuine dispute. See Id. at 324. A dispute about a
material fact is genuine if "the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A nonmovant's mere subjective
beliefs fail to establish that a material fact issue is in
dispute. See Chambers v. Sears Roebuck & Co.,
428 Fed.Appx. 400, 419 n.54 (5th Cir. 2011). The Court must
draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party in deciding a summary judgment motion.
See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
any other negligence action, a defendant in a premises
liability case is liable only to the extent it owes the
plaintiff a legal duty." Gen. Elec. Co. v.
Moritz, 257 S.W.3d 211, 217 (Tex. 2008). Whether a duty
exists is a question of law for the Court. See Del
Lago Partners, Inc. v. Smith, 307 S.W.3d 762, 767
(Tex. 2010). "[T]o prevail on a premises liability claim
a plaintiff must prove that the defendant possessed-that is,
owned, occupied, or controlled-the premises where injury
occurred." Wilson v. Tex. Parks & Wildlife
Dep't, 8 S.W.3d 634, 635 (Tex. 1999). See also
Cty. of Cameron v. Brown, 80 S.W.3d 549, 556 (Tex. 2002)
("[A] premises-liability defendant may be held liable
for a dangerous condition on the property if it assum[ed]
control over and responsibility for the premises, even if it
did not own or physically occupy the property.")
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
case, summary judgment is proper in favor of Family Dollar,
Inc. because there is absolutely no evidence that Family
Dollar, Inc. owned, occupied, or controlled the premises. As
such, Family Dollar, Inc. owed no legal duty to Galvan. In
opposing summary judgment, Galvan asserts that Family Dollar,
Inc. should be held responsible for her injuries because
there was signage at the store that referenced Family Dollar.
That might be true, but there is no evidence that Family
Dollar, Inc. is the same entity to which the Family Dollar
signage refers. The signage might have been referring to
Family Dollar Stores of Texas, LLC, the entity that leased
the subject premises, or another Family Dollar-related
entity. There is not one shred of paper that ties Family
Dollar, Inc. to the store where the accident occurred. With
no summary judgment evidence, Galvan's naked assertion
that Family Dollar, Inc. is a responsible party is
insufficient to give rise to liability as a matter of law.
this Court were to assume that Family Dollar, Inc. is the
parent corporation of Family Dollar of Texas, LLC, the lessee
of the premises, summary judgment would be appropriate. This
is because "[i]t is a general principle of corporate law
deeply ingrained in our economic and legal systems that a
parent corporation (so-called because of control through
ownership of another corporation's stock) is not liable
for the acts of its subsidiaries." United States v.
Bestfoods, Inc.,524 U.S. 51, 61 (1998) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted) (collecting
authority). See also 1 WILLIAM MEADE FLETCHER Et
Al., Fletcher Cyclopedia of Law of Corporations § 33,
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