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Defendants request summary judgement in a grocery store slip and fall case- Richards v. Great Atl. & Pac. Tea Co., 2010 NY Slip Op 33392 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., 2010)


In a slip and fall case, the defendant grocery store moves for summary dismissal, arguing that the plaintiff does not have evidence that its negligent created the hazard that led to the plaintiff’s fall, or had real or constructive notice of it.

Plaintiff Richardson was shopping at Waldbaum’s grocery store. Defendant Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company is the parent company. As she walked through the produce section, plaintiff slipped and fell due to a bunched up floor mat and area that was wet due to the vegetable misting machine which sprayed water into the aisle- beyond the area where there were mats and carpets placed to prevent customers from slipping. Based on the injuries suffered when she slipped and fell, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgement dismissing the case.

Under New York law, the defendant will be entitled to summary judgement if it can make a prima facie showing that it is entitled to it. This means that the defendant must produce sufficient evidence that there are no material issues of fact. In other words, the defendant must show that the plaintiff does not have a case. If the defendant makes a prima facie showing, then the burden shifts to the plaintiff. The plaintiff must show that there is an issue of material fact that would preclude summary judgement.

In support of its motion for summary judgement, the defendants point out that the plaintiff walked in the produce section for about 15 minutes, and that she walked in the area where she eventually fell. Even though plaintiff stated that she fell on a bunched up, wet mat, she also said that she did not see the mat earlier. After she had made her initial statements about the fall and the condition of the makes, the plaintiff added that the problem with the bunched up mats is a recurring problem, yet she had never reported the problem.

In addition, the assistant store manager testified that he was in the area a few minutes prior to plaintiff’s accident and that the mat was not bunched up and wet. The assistant manager also testified that he was not aware of any complaints about folded or defective mats, wet areas, or faulty misters that sprayed water into the aisle. Similarly, the produce manager reported that the mats do not get wet from the misters and that he has not received any reports about wet or bunched mats. The defendants speculated that it is possible that the plaintiff caused the mat to bunch up when she fell. Finally, the defendants argue that the plaintiffs have no evidence that the defendant knew or should have known about the hazardous condition.

On the other hand, the plaintiff oppose the defendants motion by arguing that the mat had become bunched prior to the plaintiff stepping near it. The plaintiff also states that the defendant used a type of mat that is lightweight, that is not slip resistant, and that is more likely to bunch up. The plaintiffs further argue that the bunching mat problem is a recurring one and that is a safety hazard that defendants had adequate time to correct, and that the absence of complaints does not negate defendant’s liability.

The court concluded that the defendant presented a prima facie case that it had not created the hazardous condition, or that it did not have actual or constructive notice of the condition that the plaintiff alleged to have caused the plaintiff to fall. Thus, the burden shifted to the plaintiff to show that there does exist a material issue of fact that would preclude the granting of summary judgement. Based on the plaintiff’s evidence, the court found that there does clearly exist genuine issues of fact as to the liability of the defendant. Thus, the defendant’s summary judgement motion was denied.

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