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Pinto v. Shoppers Food Warehouse, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

December 9, 2019

GLORIA PINTO, Plaintiff
v.
SHOPPERS FOOD WAREHOUSE, LLC Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Charles B. Day United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (“Defendant's Motion”), ECF No. 15. The Court has reviewed Defendant's Motion, the opposition thereto, and Defendant's Reply. No. hearing is deemed necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion.

         I. Factual Background

         On August 3, 2018, Plaintiff suffered a slip-and-fall accident at the Shoppers Food Warehouse, LLC (“Shoppers”) located in Clinton, Maryland, operated and controlled by Defendant. Compl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 1. According to Plaintiff's deposition testimony, she was walking through an aisle of the store with her son and grandchildren when she stepped in a puddle of water and fell. Pinto Dep. 25:15-17, 29:8-30:20, ECF No. 15-2. Plaintiff does not know the source of the water or how long it was on the floor before the accident. Id. at 33:10- 14. Plaintiff further stated that she had no reason to believe that Shoppers employees knew that there was water on the floor. Id. at 33:15-34:6. Plaintiff also stated that after she fell, she did not talk to any of the employees. Id. at 34:11-20.

         Present with Plaintiff at the time of the accident, Plaintiff's son Rafael Huertas (“Huertas”) also testified that he did not notice any water on the floor while walking through the area in which Plaintiff fell. Huertas Dep. 14:5-8, ECF No. 15-3. Huertas stated that he had no idea where the water came from or how long it was on the floor. Id. at 20:10-13. Huertas further stated that he had no reason to believe that Shoppers employees knew that there was water on the floor before the accident. Id. at 22:7-9.

         James Hunter, the co-manager of the store at the time of the accident, testified that he responded to the occurrence and found a small puddle of water near Plaintiff, but that he was unable to locate the source of the water. Hunter Dep. 10:13-18, 21:10-12, ECF. No. 15-4. Shoppers employee Gervey Letherbury (“Letherbury”) testified that approximately five to ten minutes prior to Plaintiff's fall, he had cleaned up another spill which was on the other side of the same aisle. Letherbury Dep. 15:15-18, ECF No. 15-5. After cleaning the prior spill, Letherbury testified that he walked up and down the aisle to make sure he did not miss a spot and did not find any water on the floor. Id. at 12:15-14:12, 17:17-18, 25:20-26:18.

         Following the fall, Plaintiff alleges that she sustained significant injuries to her hip, left arm, and her entire left side. Pinto Dep. 43:5-44:10; Compl. ¶ 5. Defendant now moves for summary judgment.

         II. Standard of Review

         A court may grant summary judgment “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A court must construe the facts alleged and reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must demonstrate that no genuine issue of fact exists and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Pulliam Inv. Co., Inc. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). The moving party bears the initial burden of “informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. “[T]he burden on the moving party may be discharged by ‘showing' - that is, pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Id. at 325.

         “Once the moving party discharges its burden . . . the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Kitchen v. Upshaw, 286 F.3d 179, 182 (4th Cir. 2002). Where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, it is that party's responsibility to confront the motion for summary judgment with affirmative evidence. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986). “The disputed facts must be material to an issue necessary for the proper resolution of the case.” Everett, Inc. v. Nat'l Cable Adver., L.P., 57 F.3d 1317, 1323 (4th Cir. 1995). There must be “sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citations omitted).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's negligence in failing to warn patrons of an existing hazard, and failure to properly “maintain the premises of the store in a safe and prudent manner” caused Plaintiff's injuries. Compl. ¶ 7. Defendant argues that summary judgment should be granted in its favor because Plaintiff failed to produce enough evidence to support ...


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