United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
STEPHANIE CARDUCCI and RICHARD CARDUCCI, Individually and as wife and husband, Plaintiffs,
US FOODS, INC., d/b/a CHEF'STORE, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. CAUTHRON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
filed the present action asserting a negligence claim against
Defendant arising from Stephanie Carducci's injuries at
Defendant's store in Oklahoma City. According to
Plaintiffs, Mrs. Carducci was leaving the dairy section of
the store when she slipped in a puddle of water. Mrs.
Carducci alleges Defendant was negligent in failing to
exercise the requisite care to herself and others. Mr.
Carducci brings a claim for loss of consortium.
has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing it is
entitled to judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims as they
cannot establish their claim for negligence.
judgment is appropriate if the pleadings and affidavits show
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). [A] motion for summary judgment should be
granted only when the moving party has established the
absence of any genuine issue as to a material fact.
Mustang Fuel Corp. v. Youngstown Sheet & Tube
Co., 561 F.2d 202, 204 (10th Cir. 1977). The movant
bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of
material fact requiring judgment as a matter of law.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23
(1986). A fact is material if it is essential to the proper
disposition of the claim. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If the movant carries
this initial burden, the nonmovant must then set forth
specific facts outside the pleadings and admissible into
evidence which would convince a rational trier of fact to
find for the nonmovant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). These specific
facts may be shown by any of the kinds of evidentiary
materials listed in Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings
themselves. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Such
evidentiary materials include affidavits, deposition
transcripts, or specific exhibits. Thomas v. Wichita
Coca-Cola Bottling Co., 968 F.2d 1022, 1024 (10th Cir.
1992). The burden is not an onerous one for the nonmoving
party in each case, but does not at any point shift from the
nonmovant to the district court. Adler v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 672 (10th Cir. 1998). All
facts and reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
order to prove a prima facie case of negligence, a plaintiff
must show that (1) the premises owner owed the plaintiff a
duty to protect the plaintiff from injury; (2) the premises
owner breached that duty; and (3) the duty breached
proximately caused an injury to plaintiff. Scott v.
Archon Grp., L.P., 2008 OK 45, ¶ 17, 191 P.3d 1207,
parties are in agreement that Mrs. Carducci was an invitee on
Defendant's premises. It is also undisputed that she was
there as a business visitor. Therefore, under Oklahoma law,
Mrs. Carducci was “entitled to that care which would
make the premises safe for [her] reception.” Brown
v. Nicholson, 1997 OK 32, ¶ 7, 935 P.2d 319, 322.
Defendant's Motion argues that Plaintiffs have failed to
establish the breach of any duty. According to Defendant,
Mrs. Carducci admits that the water was not on the floor when
she entered the dairy area but was present when she left
approximately 5-7 minutes later. Defendant argues that the
time period of 5-7 minutes was insufficient for it to be
aware of the presence of the water. Therefore, Defendant
argues it is entitled to judgment.
recognizes that there are two conditions under which it can
be liable: (1) that the dangerous condition resulted from the
action or inaction of its employees and that condition was
the proximate cause of Plaintiffs' injuries; or (2) that
it had knowledge of the condition that caused the injury or
that the condition had been present for a sufficient period
of time to charge it with knowledge of the dangerous
condition. See Safeway Stores, Inc. v. Keef, 1966 OK
140, 416 P.2d 892; see also Safeway Stores, Inc. v.
Feeback, 1964 OK 3, 390 P.2d 519. However, as noted
above, Defendant focuses its argument solely on the second
possibility - the length of time the dangerous condition had
Plaintiffs note, there is evidence in this case from which a
reasonable jury could find the first option set out above is
present to impose liability on Defendant. After falling, Mrs.
Carducci was told by an employee of Defendant that
condensation sometimes occurred and that there were supposed
to be fans there to prevent the accumulation of water. Thus,
a reasonable juror could find that the dangerous condition
(the puddle of water) resulted from the action or inaction of
its employees (failure to place fans) and that condition was
the proximate cause of Plaintiffs' injuries.
Oklahoma Supreme Court addressed a similar factual situation
We conclude the jury could reasonably have inferred the
drains under the produce case occasionally stopped up causing
water to flow into the aisle, defendants were aware of this
fact, and, in light of the testimony concerning the size and
location of the puddle, it was more likely the water in which
plaintiff slipped came from a stopped up drain under the
produce case than any other cause. The jury could then have
found that in the exercise of ordinary care defendants should
have taken some action to prevent water from running onto the
aisle on occasions when a drain did stop up.
Williams v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 1973 OK 119,
¶ 12, 515 P.2d 223, 226.
Reply, Defendant argues that condensation is a naturally
occurring event and therefore it cannot be held responsible
for its accumulation. In this regard, Defendant references
cases where there was no liability due to accumulation of ice
and/or snow. Defendant's argument misstates the nature of
the condensation in this case. While the condensation
occurred as a result of a natural process, a reasonable jury
could find that the result of water on the floor which
created a dangerous condition was the result of
Defendant's failure to use due care. Thus, Defendant is