Moore v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. et al
ORDER denying 13 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge Michael P. Mills on 10/7/2019. (lpm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
WAL-MART STORES, INC.
This cause comes before the Court on the Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary
judgment [Doc. 13] and the Defendant having responded and the Court having reviewed the
parties’ submissions, now finds as follows:
Plaintiff, Tracy Moore (hereinafter “Moore), on March 16, 2018 purchased from the
Defendant, Wal-Mart Stores East, LP (hereinafter “Wal-Mart”), two new tires for her vehicle.
Wal-Mart placed the two new tires on the front of the vehicle and removed the back tires from
the vehicle and replaced them with the vehicles’ old front tires. On March 24, 2018, Moore and
her family were travelling in her vehicle when allegedly a tire came off causing damages. The
pleadings do not elaborate whether it was a front or rear tire that detached. Moore filed two
claims with Wal-Mart’s self-insurance company: one for property damages and the other for
bodily injuries. Wal-Mart paid the claim for property damages on April 4, 2018 and denied
payment for Moore’s bodily injury claim. This civil action concerns Moore’s alleged bodily
Summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists “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, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L Ed. 2d 202 (1986). At the summary judgment stage, the court must
“draw all reasonable inference in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility
determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133,
150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed. 2d 105 (2000). Once the moving party shows there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact, the nonmoving party “must come forward with specific facts
showing a genuine factual issue for trial.” Harris ex rel. Harris v. Pontotoc Cty. Sch. Dist., 635
F.3d 685, 690 (5th Cir. 2011). “[A] party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory
allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or ‘only a scintilla of evidence.’” Turner v. Baylor
Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37
F.2d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)).
A. Respondeat Superior
Moore alleges a negligence claim and a vicarious liability claim under respondeat
superior. She has filed for partial summary judgment for her vicarious liability claim
under respondeat superior. Moore argues there is no genuine issue of material fact
concerning liability for her alleged bodily injuries because Wal-Mart admitted its
technician’s fault caused Moore’s property damages. However, Wal-Mart argues that
discovery is needed to determine liability.
The Court will proceed to determine if there is a genuine issue of material fact
concerning liability when Wal-Mart previously provided Moore payment for property
Mississippi law provides that “[u]nder the doctrine of respondeat superior, the
employer and employee are jointly and severally liable for injury caused by the
employee’s negligence. The practical implication of joint and several liability is that a
plaintiff in a respondeat superior action may sue either the employer or the employee, or
both.” Sykes v. Home Health Care Affiliates, Inc., 125 So.3d 107, 109 (Miss. Ct. App.
2013) (citations omitted) (emphasis added). Before a respondeat superior claim can be
proved, the plaintiff must prove negligence.
In Mississippi, “[t]he elements of a negligence claim are duty, breach of duty, proximate
cause, and damages.” Mladineo v. Schmidt, 52 So.3d 1154, 11162 (Miss. 2010).
Moore is able to prove negligence from two emails sent by Walmart’s self-insured
representatives. On March 28, 2018, a representative of Wal-Mart’s self-insurance company
stated “Per our conversation, I found the technician is at fault for the broken studs by over
tightening the lug nuts during the service.” (Plaintiff’s Supporting Memorandum for Partial
Summary Judgment, P. 13). On November 28, 2018, a different representative of Wal-Mart’s
self-insurance company stated “Payment was issued on 4/4/18 for the property damage claim
number 8373439.” (Id. at 14). This representative further stated “[w]e are denying liability on the
bodily injury […].” (Id).
Duty is proven by the representative acknowledging a technician tightened the lug nuts on
Moore’s car. The duty is shown to be breached by the representative acknowledging the
technician tightened the lug nuts excessively. The representative also confirms that tightening of
the lug nuts was the proximate cause of the broken studs. Finally, damages are proven by the
second representative stating that payment was sent to Moore for her property damages.
The above correspondence indicates no genuine issue of material fact concerning liability for
Moore’s property damages.
However, Moore attempts to transfer Wal-Mart’s liability for her property damages to her
alleged bodily injuries. She essentially argues that once Wal-Mart admitted liability for her
property damages then Wal-Mart is to be liable for all alleged damages. The Court disagrees.
Admitting responsibility for one type of damage does not culminate in absolute liability for all
other alleged damages. A plaintiff still needs to prove a defendant’s liability for each category of
damages sought, and she must also show that actual damages exist.
The Court finds Moore fails to do so. She incorrectly argues that Wal-Mart’s previous
admission of liability indicates that no genuine issue of material fact exists regarding her alleged
bodily damages. Wal-Mart does not admit liability for Moore’s alleged bodily injuries. Instead, it
specifically denies it. As quoted earlier in this opinion, Wal-Mart’s self-insurance company
stated “[w]e are denying liability on the bodily injury […].” (Id. at 14).
Moore’s partial summary judgment motion is premature. When the motion was filed,
discovery had not begun. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure create a partial summary
judgment process that is best served by allowing all parties the chance to gather evidence and
then have the court determine whether legitimate claims exist. At this point it is clear the parties
have not fully gathered all the available evidence. As such, the court finds the request for partial
summary judgment premature.
Therefore, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment .
SO ORDERED, this the 7th day of October, 2019.
/s/ MICHAEL P. MILLS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
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