When you suffer a personal injury such as a slip and fall and pursue a remedy in court, you must be able to support your allegations with sufficient evidence. After conducting initial discovery, a party may move for summary judgment and seek to have the case dismissed before it is ever heard by a trier of fact. When a party moves for summary judgment, it argues that the initial discovery shows that there are no issues of material fact to be decided by the trier of fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The opposing party, the party seeking to avoid having their case dismissed, must then present evidence to show that there are issues of material fact that should be heard at trial. In a recent case from the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal, a plaintiff conveniently “corrected” her deposition testimony attempting to defeat a motion for summary judgment. While the suspect changes were ultimately admitted, this was not sufficient to allow the case to go forward at trial.
In this case, Ginger Crawford slipped and fell on a wet floor in the dairy section of a grocery store owned by Brookshire Grocery Company in Springhill, Webster Parish, Louisiana. In response to a request by Brookshire, Ms. Crawford gave a deposition in which she swore to the court her version of the incident that happened in Brookshire’s Grocery. The deposition was certified by the court reporter. Brookshire then filed a motion for summary judgment, relying heavily on Ms. Crawford’s deposition. Brookshire’s motion argued that the case should be dismissed before trial because based on the initial discovery, it was evident that Ms. Crawford could satisfy her evidentiary burden under Louisiana’s Merchant Liability Statute. More specifically, Brookshire asserted that Ms. Crawford could not satisfy the “temporal” element of her claim.
In order to succeed in a slip and fall claim, a plaintiff must satisfy each and every element of Louisiana’s Merchant Liability Statute. See L.A. R.S. 9:2800.6. First, the condition that caused the fall must have presented an unreasonable risk of harm to the plaintiff and that risk of harm must have been reasonably foreseeable. Second, the merchant must have either created or had actual or constructive notice of the condition which caused the damage, prior to the occurrence. Third, the merchant must have failed to exercise reasonable care. In determining whether the merchant exercised reasonable care, the absence of a written or verbal uniform cleanup or safety procedure is insufficient to prove failure to exercise reasonable care.