United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
TIMOTHY D. DeGIUSTI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
[Doc. No. 34], to which Plaintiff has responded [Doc. No.
35]. The matter is fully briefed and at issue.
December 19, 2013, Plaintiff and her niece went to a Target
store located in Northwest Oklahoma City at Northwest 50th
and May Avenue. Plaintiff went to the soap aisle and placed a
bottle of Dawn dishwashing detergent in her shopping cart.
After placing the bottle of dishwashing detergent in her
cart, Plaintiff continued to shop. Plaintiff walked
approximately two aisles away before she stopped her shopping
cart to look at additional items. Plaintiff stopped for less
than a minute, then fell due to a puddle of dishwashing
detergent that simultaneously formed as she stopped. The
puddle was no bigger than the size of a business card.
length of time that passed from when Plaintiff first put the
soap in her cart to the time that she fell was approximately
a minute. Plaintiff claims that the soap dripped from the
bottle while it was in her shopping cart until the point in
time when she fell. The drip began as little droplets, which
spread over approximately two and one-half aisles leading up
to the place where Plaintiff fell. Neither Plaintiff nor her
niece saw the droplets prior to Plaintiff's fall.
sued Defendant in Oklahoma County District Court. She alleged
that the detergent bottle “was not robust enough for
shipment, was damaged in transport and negligently shelved or
… had been dropped and restacked.” Petition,
¶ 9. Plaintiff further alleged that she suffered
extensive injuries to her knee, which were “the result
of a defective container or negligence of the defendant in
detecting the leak when the product was stacked on store
shelves.” Id. ¶ 14. Defendant timely
removed the action to this Court.
56(a), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, provides that
“[t]he court shall grant summary judgment 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.” The Court's function at the summary judgment
stage is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of
the matters asserted, but to determine whether there is a
genuine issue for trial. Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct.
1861, 1866 (2014); Birch v. Polaris Indus.,
Inc., 812 F.3d 1238, 1251 (10th Cir. 2015). An issue is
“genuine” if there is sufficient evidence on each
side so that a rational trier of fact could resolve the issue
either way. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d
664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998). An issue of fact is
“material” if under the substantive law it is
essential to the proper disposition of the claim.
the moving party has met its burden, the burden shifts to the
nonmoving party to present sufficient evidence in
“specific, factual form” to establish a genuine
factual dispute. Bacchus Indus., Inc. v. Arvin Indus.,
Inc., 939 F.2d 887, 891 (10th Cir. 1991) (citing
Clifton v. Craig, 924 F.2d 182, 183 (10th Cir.
1991)). The nonmoving party may not rest upon the mere
allegations or denials of its pleadings. Rather, it must go
beyond the pleadings and establish, through admissible
evidence, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that
must be resolved by the trier of fact. Salehpoor v.
Shahinpoor, 358 F.3d 782, 786 (10th Cir. 2004).
Unsupported conclusory allegations do not create an issue of
fact. Finstuen v. Crutcher, 496 F.3d 1139, 1144
(10th Cir. 2007).
Oklahoma law, to establish a prima facie case of negligence,
a party must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence: (1) a
duty owed by the defendant to protect plaintiff from injury;
(2) defendant's failure to fulfill that duty; and (3)
injuries to plaintiff proximately caused by defendant's
failure to meet the duty. Scott v. Archon Group,
L.P., 2008 OK 45, ¶ 17, 191 P.3d 1207, 1211. In the
context of premises liability, under Oklahoma law, a business
owes a duty to its invitees or customers to exercise ordinary
care in keeping parts of the premises used by customers in a
reasonably safe condition and to warn customers of dangerous
conditions on the premises that are known or should be known
to the business.Brown v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 11
F.3d 1559, 1563 (10th Cir. 1993); Beatty v. Dixon,
1965 OK 169, ¶ 8, 408 P.2d 339, 342 (“It is the
settled rule in Oklahoma that the owner of premises owes the
duty to an invitee thereon to exercise ordinary care not to
injure him. This includes the duty to warn the invitee of any
danger thereon of which the owner knows, or ought to know,
and which is unknown to the invitee.”) (citation
business cannot be held liable “unless it be shown that
[it] had notice or could be charged with gaining knowledge of
the condition in time sufficient to effect its removal or to
give warning of its presence.” Rogers v.
Hennessee, 1979 OK 138, ¶ 9, 602 P.2d 1033, 1035
(citation omitted). The requisite notice may be actual or
constructive; constructive notice might arise from proof that
a condition had existed for a sufficient length of time that
the owner should have discovered it or from proof that the
owner had failed adequately to inspect the premises for
dangers known to arise. Id. at 1035-36. Generally,
it is a question of fact as to whether a dangerous condition
has existed long enough so that a reasonable person
exercising ordinary care would have discovered it.
Safeway Stores, Inc. v. Keef, 1966 OK 140, ¶
16, 416 P.2d 892, 896. Nevertheless, summary judgment may be
appropriate where the plaintiff presents no evidence of a
genuine dispute. See, e.g., Lewis v. Dust Bowl
Tulsa, LLC, 2016 OK CIV APP 43, ¶ 21, 377 P.3d
166, 173 (affirming summary judgment in favor of defendant on
premises liability claim, noting “the mere contention
that material facts are in dispute is not sufficient to
defeat a plea for summary judgment.”) (citation
argues in opposition to summary judgment that Defendant was
negligent by failing to inspect the detergent ...