Iguess v. Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: it is hereby ORDERED that Hyundai's 16 Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and Iguess's claims in this action are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE; The pretrial hearing and trial in this matter are CANCELLED. Signed by Honorable Judge Mark E. Fuller on 4/21/2014. (furn: calendar, wr)(term: PTC for 05/15/2014; Jury Trial for 06/16/2014) (wcl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CASE NO. 2:13-cv-0237-MEF
(WO – Do Not Publish)
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is Hyundai Motor Manufacturing, Alabama, LLC’s (“Hyundai”)
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #16). This is a premises liability action brought by
Johnnie Iguess (“Iguess”) against Hyundai based on a fall that occurred at Hyundai’s
Montgomery, Alabama facility. Iguess has not filed a response in opposition to Hyundai’s
motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, Hyundai’s motion for summary
judgment is due to be GRANTED.
II. JURISDICTION AND VENUE
This Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the parties’ claims under 28 U.S.C. §
1332. The parties do not dispute that venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), and the
Court finds adequate allegations supporting both.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is
appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,
together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine [dispute] as to any material
fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for summary judgment “always bears
the initial responsibility 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 demonstrates the
absence of a genuine [dispute] of material fact.” Id. at 323. The movant can meet this
burden by presenting evidence showing there is no dispute of material fact, or by showing
the non-moving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case
on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322–23. The burden shifts to the nonmovant “[o]nly after the moving party has satisfied that burden.” Mullins v. Crowell, 228
F.3d 1305, 1313 (11th Cir. 2000).
Once the moving part has met its burden, the non-moving 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.’”
Celotex, 447 U.S. at 324. To avoid summary judgment, the non-moving party “must do more
than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). On the other hand, a
district court ruling on a motion for summary judgment must believe the evidence of the nonmovant and must draw all justifiable inferences from the evidence in the non-moving party’s
favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The district court must
grant summary judgment if there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the moving party
is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
Where, as here, the non-moving party fails to respond to the motion for summary
judgment, the court may not grant summary judgment solely on the basis of the non-moving
party’s failure to respond. See, e.g., Trustees of Cent. Pension Fund of Int’l Union of
Operating Eng’rs & Participating Employers v. Wolf Crane Serv. Inc., 374 F.3d 1034,
1039–40 (11th Cir. 2004); United States v. One Piece of Real Prop. Located at 5800 S.W.
74th Ave., Miami, Fla., 363 F.3d 1099, 1101–02 (11th Cir. 2004). Indeed, a district court
cannot base the entry of summary judgment on the mere fact that the motion was unopposed.
Nor can a district court deem a claim abandoned by a party absent some affirmative
indication that she no longer wishes to pursue that claim. Rather, a court must conduct an
independent review of the record and consider the merits of an unopposed summary
judgment motion. See Trustees, 374 F.3d at 1039–40; One Piece of Real Prop., 363 F.3d at
1101–02. The record as a whole must establish the absence of a genuine dispute of material
fact before the court can enter judgment as a matter of law. See One Piece of Real Prop., 363
F.3d at 1101–02.
While the district court is not required to “sua sponte review all of the evidentiary
materials on file at the time the motion is granted . . . [it] must ensure that the motion itself
is supported by evidentiary materials.” See id. (citing Dunlap v. Transamerica Occidential
Life Ins. Co., 858 F.2d 629, 632 (11th Cir. 1988)). “At the least, the district court must
review all of the evidentiary materials submitted in support of the motion for summary
judgment.” Id. (citing Jaroma v. Massey, 873 F.2d 17, 20 (1st Cir. 1989)). Additionally, a
district court must “indicate that the merits of the motion were addressed.” Id. at 1102 (citing
Dunlap, 858 F.2d at 532).
On August 25, 2011, Iguess drove a straight truck for her employer, Tri-State, to
Hyundai’s Montgomery plant to pick up empty containers. Iguess parked at the facility and
exited her truck to find out which loading dock she needed to use. After discovering which
loading dock to use, Iguess backed her truck into the dock. She exited the vehicle and went
to the rear of the truck to lower the truck’s landing gear, which stabilizes the truck so that it
can support the weight of a forklift.
Hyundai’s loading docks contain “chocks” that are wedged into a truck’s tires to keep
it stable while it is unloaded. The chocks are attached to a chain, which is attached to an
The chain in Iguess’s loading dock was coiled around the eyelet and was
As a result of Iguess’s failure to respond to Hyundai’s motion for summary judgment, she
has presented no evidence disputing Hyundai’s factual assertions. Under the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, “[i]f a party fails to properly . . . address another party’s assertion of fact as required by
Rule 56(c), the court may . . . consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion” and “grant
summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials . . . show that the movant is entitled to
it.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2)-(3). Hyundai has presented the deposition testimony of Iguess in
addition to the affidavits of two Hyundai employees. While the Court must view the facts in the
light most favorable to Iguess, as the non-movant, in the absence of any response from Iguess, the
Court deems Hyundai’s factual assertions undisputed.
approximately five and a half feet from the wall. The eyelet stuck two to three inches above
the ground, and the pile of chain coiled around it was about six inches above the ground.
Iguess saw the chain on the floor and attempted to step over it to go to the other side
of the truck to lower the landing gear. Iguess did not look down at the chain as she stepped
over it, and she admits she could have walked around the chain rather than step over it. As
she stepped over the chain, Iguess caught her foot on the eyelet and fell to the concrete floor,
injuring herself. Iguess stated that, had she been looking down as she stepped over the chain,
she was not sure she would have seen the eyelet because it is the same color as the chain.
The chocks and chains that are secured to the eyelets have been installed in Hyundai’s
loading areas since approximately June of 2011. The loading dock used by Iguess is almost
constantly in use during business hours, and around sixteen to twenty trucks will use the dock
on a given day. No one besides Iguess has complained to Hyundai about tripping over the
eyelets or chains in the loading areas.2
Iguess has sued Hyundai for both negligently and wantonly failing to maintain safe
premises. (Doc. #1-1.) Hyundai has moved for summary judgment on both counts. Hyundai
argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on the negligence claim because there is no
evidence that the chain and eyelet were a defect, or, alternatively, if the chain and eyelet were
a defect, that the danger was open and obvious. Therefore, Hyundai claims that it had no
This statement was made by Hyundai’s Manager of Safety by affidavit dated December 12,
2013. Thus, aside from Iguess, Hyundai has received no complaints about tripping over the eyelets
or chains over a two-and-a-half year period.
duty to eliminate the condition or warn of it. Hyundai also argues that there is no evidence
that Hyundai was wanton in placing the chains and eyelets in the loading docks. Since the
Court agrees that there is no evidence the chain and eyelet are a defect, the Court will address
only that portion of Hyundai’s argument.
Hyundai does not dispute Iguess’s assertion that she was an invitee at Hyundai’s
facility. (Doc. #1-1, at ¶ 17.) A landowner owes an invitee the legal duty to exercise
reasonable care and diligence to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition for the uses
contemplated by the invitation and to warn the invitee of known dangers or dangers that
should have been known and of which the invitee was ignorant. Shelton v. Boston Fin. Inc.,
638 So. 2d 824, 825 (Ala. 1994) (quotation and citation omitted). A plaintiff at the summary
judgment stage must present substantial evidence that the plaintiff’s injury was the result of
a defect or instrumentality on the premises, that the defect was the result of the defendant’s
negligence, and that the defendant had or should have had notice of the defect before the time
of the accident. Hale v. Sequoyah Caverns & Campgrounds, Inc., 612 So. 2d 1162, 1164
(Ala. 1992). Where the defect is a part of the premises, as opposed to a slick spot on a floor,
whether the defendant had actual or constructive notice of the defect will go to the jury
regardless of whether the plaintiff makes a prima facie showing that the defendant had or
should have had notice of the defect at the time of the accident. Mims v. Jack’s Rest., 565
So. 2d 609, 610–11 (Ala. 1990).
However, as a threshold matter, a plaintiff must present substantial evidence that the
cause of her injury was a defect in the premises, and proof that no one else has been injured
by the alleged defect is evidence that the condition is not a defect. See Miller ex rel. Miller
v. Liberty Park Joint Venture, LLC, 84 So. 2d 88 (Ala. Civ. App. 2011) (holding gap between
fence frame and surface of tennis court was not a defect because court had been in
continuous use for over thirteen years and no one else had been injured like plaintiff); Butler
v. AAA Warehousing & Moving Co., 686 So. 2d 291 (Ala. Civ. App. 1996) (holding that
stand for reviewing parade with five-inch vertical gaps was not defective where no other
parade patron had been injured by it in twenty five years); Robison v. Gantt, 673 So. 2d 441
(Ala. Civ. App. 1995) (holding pool was not defective because snake bite that occurred at
the pool had never happened before). The Miller case makes clear that once a landowner
presents evidence that a condition is not defective or unreasonably dangerous, the burden
shifts to the plaintiff to present substantial evidence that the condition was unreasonably
dangerous. 84 So. 3d at 94. Hyundai has presented evidence that the chains and eyelets in
the loading docks are not unreasonably dangerous. In the more than two years they have
been in the loading docks, with sixteen to twenty trucks per day using the docks, no one has
complained of tripping over them except Iguess.
Thus, the burden shifts to Iguess to demonstrate the chains and eyelets are
unreasonably dangerous. Iguess has failed to present any evidence that the chains and eyelets
are unreasonably dangerous by failing to respond to Hyundai’s motion for summary
judgment. Therefore, the undisputed facts demonstrate that the chain and eyelet were not a
defect in the premises, and Hyundai is entitled to summary judgment on Iguess’s negligence
Iguess has also failed to present any evidence that Hyundai’s placement of the chains
and eyelets in their loading docks was wanton. Wantonness requires a showing that the
defendant was aware that placing the chains and eyelets in their loading docks was likely to
result in injury but chose to do so anyway. See Dolgencorp, Inc. v. Taylor, 28 So. 3d 737,
745 (Ala. 2009). The undisputed facts show that the chains and eyelets were placed in the
loading docks to keep the chocks from being removed and that no one besides Iguess has
complained of tripping over them. Therefore, Hyundai is also entitled to summary judgment
on Iguess’s wantonness claim.
Based on the foregoing, it is hereby ORDERED that Hyundai’s Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. #16) is GRANTED, and Iguess’s claims in this action are DISMISSED
WITH PREJUDICE. The pretrial hearing and trial in this matter are CANCELLED.
A separate final judgment will be entered in accordance with this Memorandum
Opinion and Order.
DONE this the 21st day of April, 2014.
/s/ Mark E. Fuller
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?