Workman v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER, granting 19 MOTION for Summary Judgment by Wal-Mart Stores East, Limited Partnership a judgment in favor of dft will be entered herewith.. Signed by Judge Henry R. Wilhoit, Jr on 6/1/17.(SMT)cc: COR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-69-HRW
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WAL-MART STORES, INC.,
This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.'s Motion for
Summary Judgment [Docket No. 19]. The matter has been fully briefed by the pa1iies [Docket
Nos. 19-1, 23 and 29]. For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds that Defendant is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law.
This case arises from an incident which occurred at the Wal-Mart in Ashland,
Kentucky on August 21, 2014. On that day, Plaintiff Jodie Workman went to Wal-Mart with
her son to shop for school supplies. [Deposition of Plaintiff, Docket No. 19-2, pg. 53). In her
deposition, she described the incident in detail. When they finished shopping, Plaintiff put her
groceries in the trunk of her car and returned her cart next to a cart corral in the parking lot.
Id. at 56, 61. When she approached the cart corral, there were several cmis extending from
the it as well carts surrounding it. Id. at 58. The carts that extended out of the cart corral were
collapsed into one another. Id. at 59. There were also carts collapsed into one another next to
the cmi corral, and some carts were by themselves. Id. at 60. Plaintiff positioned her cart next
to the other carts, very carefully, so it would not turn or roll. Id. at 58, 60, 62. She saw carts,
in her peripheral vision, ahead of where she placed her cmi, begin to move. Id. She does not
know why these carts stmied to move. Id. at 70-71. She does not believe she touched any other
carts when she placed her cart next to the carts outside of the cart corral. Id. at 61. She does
not know if another customer knocked the carts, stmiing their motion. Id. at 62. She testified
that it was easy to see the carts moving toward her, because this was quite obvious. Id. at 78.
When the carts began to move, however, rather than getting out of the way, Plaintiff began
collecting the cmis and placing them back within the corral. Id. at 62-63. She did this for
"probably a good five minutes," but it "seemed like it took forever." Id. at 63.
admitted that no one - not another shopper or a Wal-Mart employee - told her to collect the
carts. Id. at 66.
At some point during the five minutes, Plaintiff noticed a cart coming toward her, and
she raised her hand to stop it. Id. at 32, 64. A cmi then hit the top of her right hand. Id. at 32,
64. When her right hand was stiuck by the cart, both of her palms were facing away from the
cart and her fingertips were pointed down towards the ground. Id. at 64-65.
Plaintiffs son was sitting in the car when the accident happened, but did not witness
it. Id. at 54. Plaintiff does not know if the cart that hit her was the one she had used while she
was shopping. Id. at 65. Plaintiff cannot identify which cart struck her. Id. at 68. She looked
at the cart that struck her and saw nothing wrong with it. Id.
As a result of the impact with carts, Ms. Workman suffered a torn tendon in her hand.
She had surgery and was off work because of it for a few months. She alleges that the medical
bills were over $40,000.00 and she continues to have problems with that hand.
Plaintiff sned Wal-Mart for negligence in Boyd Circuit Court, seeking payment of
medical expenses, lost wages, and damages for her pain and suffering and her impaired
capacity to earn money.
The case was removed to this Court upon the basis of diversity jurisdiction. See 28
U.S.C. § 1332.
Defendant now seeks summary judgement, arguing that Plaintiff has failed to bring
forth any evidence that Wal-Mart breached a duty to her or caused the accident.
Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there
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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).
A dispute over a material fact is not "genuine" unless a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party. That is, the determination must be "whether the evidence
presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so onesided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986).
"Once a moving party has met its burden of production, 'its opponent must do more
than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts."
Keene/and Ass'n, Inc. v. Eames, 830 F. Supp. 974, 984 (E.D. Ky. 1993) citing Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The nonmoving party
may not merely rely upon the assertions in its pleadings; rather that party must come
forward with probative evidence, such as sworn affidavits to support its claims. Celotex,
477 U.S. at 324. In making this determination, the Court must review all the facts and the
inferences drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.
Ultimately, the standard for determining whether summaiy judgment is appropriate
is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jmy
or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Booker v.
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co., 879 F.2d 1304, 1310 (6th Cir. 1989) quoting Anderson,
477 U.S. at 251-52.
In this diversity action, the Court applies Kentucky law to the substantive legal
issues. Further, the patties do not dispute the standard to be applied to the Plaintiffs
negligence claims. To prevail, she must prove three elements: (I) a duty on the patt of the
defendant; (2) a breach of that duty; and (3) consequent injmy. Mullins v. Commonwealth
Life Ins. Co., 839 S.W.2d 245, 247 (Ky. 1992); lvl & T Chemicals v. Westrick, 525 S.W.2d
740, 741 (Ky. 1974).
In the context of premises liability, Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that: (I) he
or she had an encounter with a foreign substance or other dangerous condition on the
business premises; (2) the encounter was a substantial factor in causing the accident and
the customer's injuries; and (3) by reason of the presence of the substance or condition, the
business premises were not in a reasonably safe condition for the use of business invitees.
Lanier v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 99 S.W.3d 431, 435-436 (Ky. 2003). Such proof creates a
rebuttable presumption sufficient to avoid a summaty judgment or directed verdict, Id. at
435, and "shifts the burden of proving the absence of negligence, i.e., the exercise of
reasonable care, to the party who invited the injured customer to its business premises." Id.
In seeking summary judgment, Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot prove that she
encountered a dangerous condition at Wal-Matt on day in question and, therefore, cannot
prove the duty, breach or causation elements of negligence. The Court agrees.
Taking all of Plaintiffs allegations and testimony as true, and viewing the facts of
this case in a light most favorable to her, she has not proven that she encountered an
unreasonably dangerous condition at Wal-Mart on the day in question. The presence of
carts in the parking lot, in or outside the cart corral, wind, or an incline in the parking lot,
does not make the parking lot unreasonably dangerous. As Defendant points out, WalMart's policies and procedures with respect to cart collection and safety, as well as specific
Associate positions designated for cart collection, demonstrate Wal-Mart maintained its
parking lot in a reasonably safe manner. Moreover, Wal-Matt does not request its
customers to collect stray carts. There is nothing unreasonably dangerous about a parking
lot with shopping carts. If that were true, virtually eve1y retail store parking lot would be
With regard to causation, Plaintiff must prove that Wal-Matt's alleged negligence
"was a substantial factor in causing the accident and [her] injuries." Martin v. lYlekanhart
Corp., 113 S.W.3d, 95, 98 (Ky. 2003). See also Hicks v. Fontaine Feny Enters., Inc., 247
S.W.2d 493, 495 (Ky. 1952). A "mere possibility of such causation is not enough." Texaco,
Inc. v. Standard, 536 S.W.2d 136, 138 (Ky. 1975). Plaintiff must establish causation
beyond "pure speculation and conjectnre." Id.
Once Plaintiff positioned her cart near the corral, several carts began to move about
the parking lot. [Docket No. 19-2, pg. 62]. She testified that she does not know why the
cmts were rolling or what caused them to move. Id. at 70-71. She concedes that Wal-Mmt
did not start the movement. Id. at 73. Instead of simply retnrning to her car, she spent "a
good five minutes" collecting shopping carts and attempting to place them back into the
corral. Id. at 63. She also concedes that had she simply walked away, she probably would
not have been injured. Id. at 82. Yct, she took it upon herself to collect the stray carts. Id.
at 82-83. Wal-Mmt did not ask or encourage her to do this. She did this of her own
volition. Plaintiff admitted it was easy to see the carts coming toward her. Id. She could
have and should have moved out of the way. Plaintiffs failure to exercise reasonable care
absolves Wal-Mmt of liability.
Plaintiff argues that she acted as any reasonable person would have. To do
otherwise may have resulted in injury to others. In her deposition she stated, "I would have
had to be a sociopath to walk off and leave the sitnation." Id. at 66.
law provides no refuge for the good samaritan. 1 No good deed goes unpunished.
The "rescue doctrine" does not apply to this case. As stated in Waibel v. Sprecher,
824 S.W.2d 887, 888 (Ky. App. 1992):
The rescue doctrine provides generally that one who is injured
in reasonably undertaking a necessary rescue may recover
from the person whose negligence created the sitnation
necessitating the rescue. Under the rescue doctrine, a
Plaintiff has proved neither breach or causation. As such, her claim against WalMmi fails as a matter of law.
Accordingly, Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant Wal-Mart
Stores, East, L.P. 's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 19] be SUSTAINED.
Judgment in favor of the Defendant will be entered contemporaneously herewith.
day of June, 2017.
Henrv R. WUholt. Jr,.
United States District Judge
negligent actor, whose conduct threatens harm to the person
or property of another may, subject to certain conditions,
incur liability to a party who is injured in an attempt to rescue
the imperiled person or property from the threatened harm, on
the thcmy that the negligence of the actor is the proximate or
legal cause of the rescuer's injury.
Id. at 888.
"[A] person who attempts to rescue one who has been put in peril by the negligence
of another may maintain a cause of action for injuries sustained in attempting his rescue. But
this right of action rests entirely upon the ground that the peril to which the person was
exposed was caused by the negligence of the person sought to be made liable." Taylor Coal
Co. v. Porter's Administrator, 175 S.W. 1014, I 017 (Ky. 1915) (citations omitted). Plaintiff
cannot prove Wal-Mart acted negligently; therefore, the rescue doctrine is inapplicable.
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?