Williams v. Williams et al
ORDER AND REASONS denying 18 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. (ecm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
MITCHELL WILLIAMS, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc.
18). For the following reasons, this Motion is DENIED.
Plaintiff Steven Williams brings this negligence action, as a result of
injuries sustained while accessing the attic at the home of his brother,
Defendant Mitchell Williams. He contends that one of the rungs of the attic
access ladder was broken, causing him to fall to the floor and sustain serious
injuries to his right shoulder. He alleges that the defect in the ladder posed an
unreasonable risk of harm. Defendant filed the instant Motion for Summary
Judgment, alleging that there was no way that he knew or, in the exercise of
reasonable care, should have known of the defective ladder. Plaintiff responds
in opposition, arguing that this issue presents a genuine issue of fact
inappropriate for determination on summary judgment.
Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with 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.”1 A genuine issue
of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.”2
In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment,
the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws
all reasonable inferences in his favor.3 “If the moving party meets the initial
burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden
shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts
showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”4 Summary judgment is
appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish
the existence of an element essential to that party’s case.”5 “In response to a
properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must
identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that
evidence supports that party’s claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to
sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as to which the nonFed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) (2012).
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
3 Coleman v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 113 F.3d 528 (5th Cir. 1997).
4 Engstrom v. First Nat’l Bank of Eagle Lake, 47 F.3d 1459, 1462 (5th Cir. 1995).
5 Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).
movant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”6 “We do not . . . in the absence
of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the
Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual
dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”8
LAW AND ANALYSIS
In this Motion, Defendants allege that this action should be dismissed
because Plaintiff can put forth no evidence that Defendant Mitchell Williams
knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known, of the defective
attic ladder. Because this case is premised on a defect in a building, it is
governed by Louisiana Civil Code article 2317 and the following articles. “To
prove liability, a plaintiff must show: (1) that the owner or custodian of a thing
knew or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known of the ruin, vice,
or defect which allegedly caused the damage; (2) that the damage could have
been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care; and (3) that the owner or
custodian failed to exercise reasonable care.”9
It Plaintiff’s undisputed testimony that he observed the broken ladder
rung on his way into the attic. It is likewise undisputed that at some point in
the past Defendant entered the attic to store the television antenna. In order
to impose liability on Defendant, he must have had actual or constructive
knowledge of the defective condition.
“Constructive knowledge imposes a
reasonable duty to discover apparent defects in things under the defendant’s
John v. Deep E. Tex. Reg. Narcotics Trafficking Task Force, 379 F.3d 293, 301 (5th
Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted).
7 Badon v. R J R Nabisco, Inc., 224 F.3d 382, 394 (5th Cir. 2000) (quoting Little v.
Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)).
8 Boudreaux v. Banctec, Inc., 366 F. Supp. 2d 425, 430 (E.D. La. 2005).
9 Encalade v. A.H.G. Sols., LLC, 204 So. 3d 661, 667 (La. App. 4 Cir. 2016).
garde.”10 “A court may find constructive knowledge if the conditions that
caused the injury existed for such a period of time that those responsible, by
the exercise of ordinary care and diligence, must have known of their existence
in general and could have guarded the public from injury.”11
Defendant’s deposition testimony indicates that he had no actual knowledge of
the ladder’s defective condition, the Court finds that, based on the undisputed
facts, a reasonable jury could infer that Defendant should have known of the
defective ladder step. This is particularly so in light of the fact that he has
presented no evidence that anyone entered the attic between his storing of the
antenna and the day of his brother’s fall. Though various individuals visited
the house prior to the incident, it seems that none of them entered the attic.
Simply put, there is no evidence establishing the amount of time that the
ladder step was broken. Accordingly, summary judgment is precluded by this
genuine issue of material fact.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment
New Orleans, Louisiana this 16th day of February, 2017.
JANE TRICHE MILAZZO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Id. at 668 (internal citations omitted).
Id. (internal citations omitted).
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