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R.S. v. Target Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

October 12, 2016

R.S., a minor, by and through her next friend Christina Serrone Shields, Plaintiff,
v.
Target Corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr., United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Target Corporation's Motion for Summary, Judgment (Doc., 31).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed the pending action on September 25, 2015, in the Circuit Court of Platte County, Missouri. On November 2, 2015, defendant timely removed the action, asserting diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff, through her next friend, Christina Serrone Shields (plaintiff's mother) asserts that plaintiff tripped and fell in a Target store on September 13, 2012. Specifically, plaintiff's one-count complaint asserts that plaintiff tripped over a clothing rack projecting out into an aisle. Doc. No. 32-1, ¶ 5. Plaintiff asserts that the clothing rack was in an unreasonably dangerous place, and defendant knew or should have known about the dangerous nature of obstructing an aisle to have remedied or warned of the dangerous condition. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. Plaintiff further asserts that defendant had a duty to warn plaintiff of the known dangerous condition but failed to do so. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff alleges that she suffered injuries to her head and neck, and has incurred and in the future will incur expenses related to the treatment of her injuries, and will also incur pain and suffering in the future. Id. ¶ 9.

         On August 12, 2016, defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff's premises liability negligence claim fails as a matter of law. Specifically, defendant argues that (1) the alleged dangerous condition was open and obvious as a matter of law, absolving defendant of any duty of care owed to plaintiff; and (2) plaintiff is unable to make a prima facie case of negligence against defendant because plaintiff cannot meet the elements necessary to support her claim under Missouri law.

         II. Facts[1]

         Plaintiff, by and through her Next Friend, alleges to have been injured at Defendant's Store located at 9040 N. Skyview Avenue, Kansas City, Platte County, Missouri ("Store"), on September 13, 2012, after she tripped over a clothing rack projecting out into an aisle. Petition, Doc. No. 32-1, ¶¶ 3 and 5. On that date, Next Friend Christina Shields ("Shields") and her minor twin daughters, age 3 (one of whom is plaintiff), went to the subject Target Store to look for shoes and accessories for the girls. Doc. No. 32-2, Shields Depo., 6:1-6, 9:24-25, 10:1-12, 11:2-6. Shields did not get a shopping cart and her daughters walked with her in the Store. Id., p. 10:13-17. After initially looking at children's footwear, Shields and plaintiff entered the children's apparel department to look at hair bows on the accessories rack. Id., pp.19:4-7, 16-25; 20:1-4, 19-24.

         Shields believes that, while in the children's apparel department, plaintiff tripped over the foot of a rack containing clothing (hereinafter "clothing rack"). Id., pp.21:24-25, 22:1-7. Shields also believes plaintiff fell into an accessories rack approximately eighteen inches from the foot of the clothing rack it is believed plaintiff tripped over. Id., p.23:1-13. The clothing rack in question was the first rack located off of the Store's main aisle. All legs of the clothing rack were located on the carpeted area of the Store, not the tiled aisle. Shields Depo., pp.23:21-25, 24:1-9, 20-25. The accessories rack was also located on the carpeted area. Id., p.24:1-9, 16-25.

         Shields did not see plaintiff trip over the foot of the clothing rack. Shields was standing at the accessories rack looking for bows when the incident occurred. Id., p. 22:13-15, 21-25. Shields did not see plaintiff strike the accessories rack. After hearing a thud, Shields saw plaintiff face-down on the floor. Id., pp. 26:1-2, 13-15; 28:24-25; 29:1. Shields testified that plaintiff's twin sister may have been the only person to have seen her trip over the foot of the rack. However, plaintiff's sister never told her mother that she saw anything that had occurred or gave her a version of events. Id., 22:16-20. Additionally, plaintiff R.S. has never told her mother what caused her to fall. Id., p. 35:8-13.

         Shields routinely shopped at the Store prior to the subject incident. Shields estimated that she frequented the Store at least twice a month to purchase household goods as opposed to groceries. Id., p. 8:17-25, 9:1-9. Prior to the subject incident, Shields never fell or saw anyone else fall on the Store's premises. Shields Depo., p.9:10-14. Prior to the subject incident, Ms. Shields never made any complaints to Target regarding the condition of its premises at the Store, nor was she aware of any such complaints made by others. Id., p.9:15-21. Multiple times prior to the subject incident, Shields had parked her shopping cart off to the side of the Store's children's apparel department because the distance between the racks therein was too narrow for her to maneuver a cart through. Id., pp. 16:17-25, 17:1-21, 18:5-10. Prior to the subject incident, Shields never spoke with anyone at Target regarding her concern that the distance between the racks in the children's apparel department was too narrow, and she was not aware of any other person who had done so. Id., pp. 16:22-25, 18:1-4.

         III. Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). The facts and inferences are viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-90 (1986). The moving party must carry the burden of establishing both the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that such party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586-90.

         A nonmoving party must establish more than “the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence” in support of its position. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986).

The nonmovant must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, and must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to ...

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