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Finding Candy Is Not Always A Good Thing (PA)

September 5, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In<em> <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Dupell-v-Walmart-Stores-East-LP.pdf">Dupell v Walmart Stores East LP</a></em>, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted Summary Judgment in favor of defendant Walmart, finding no evidence that there were any harmful conditions that caused Tracie Dupell (“Plaintiff”) to fall.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In brief, the Plaintiff was shopping at Walmart when she fell and injured her leg. The Plaintiff contends that she slipped and fell on loose M&amp;Ms. The Plaintiff’s complaint alleges Walmart was negligent because it knew or should have known about the harmful condition and failed to maintain its store in a safe manner. The Plaintiff’s discovery responses indicate that the Plaintiff had no firsthand knowledge of what she slipped on and did not see the M&amp;Ms herself. Rather, the Plaintiff asserts that her husband saw the M&amp;Ms after she fell. The video footage does not show any loose candy on the floor and there is no mention of the candy in the incident reports. In Walmart’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Walmart contended there was insufficient evidence to establish negligence.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Under Pennsylvania law, a possessor of land may be found liable only if he: (a) knew or by exercise of due care should have known about a condition on the land that involves an unreasonable risk of harm, (b) expected that the invitee will not discover the dangerous condition, and (c) failed to exercise reasonable care to protect themselves from the danger. Constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition can be established by demonstrating that the condition existed for such a length of time that in the exercise of reasonable care the owner should have known of it.  Here, the Court determined that the Plaintiff failed to offer enough evidence to support her assertion that Walmart knew or should have known of the M&amp;Ms on the floor. The Walmart security footage, incident reports, and discovery responses did not support the existence of the M&amp;Ms. The Court found the Plaintiff’s husband’s statement regarding the M&amp;M insufficient as he was never deposed nor was a sworn affidavit produced. Further, the Plaintiff’s husband arrived on the scene after the Plaintiff had fallen and did not witness the Plaintiff fall on the loose candy. Therefore, the Court held that Summary Judgment in favor of Walmart was appropriate as there was insufficient evidence demonstrating the existence of the loose candy and even if it existed, there was no evidence of how it got there or how long it had been there.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">This case reaffirms the notion that in premises liability actions, a court may grant a motion to dismiss if the Plaintiff has failed to support his or her contention that a harmful condition existed with sufficient evidence.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thank you to Rachel Thompson for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:chayes@wcmlaw.com">Colleen E. Hayes</a> with any questions.</p>

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