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Insufficient Evidence on Aisle 5 (PA)

October 19, 2018

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On September 18, 2018, in <em><a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Pace-v.-Wal-Mart-Stores.pdf">Pace v. Wal-Mart Stores</a></em>, District Judge Baylson for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted Wal-Mart’s motion for summary judgment against plaintiff’s slip and fall claim.

Plaintiff with his wife and two children was shopping as his local Wal-Mart store in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania when he slipped and fell on some grapes in the produce section. His injuries included lumbar spine sprain, lumbar radiculopathy, and a fracture of the right proximal fibula. plaintiff also had to undergo a total knee replacement, allegedly as a result of the incident.

Wal-Mart filed a motion for summary judgment, and Judge Baylson granted the motion because plaintiff presented no evidence that Wal-Mart had actual or constructive notice of the grape(s) on the floor of the produce aisle. Under Pennsylvania law, in order to recover in a slip and fall premises liability case, plaintiff must prove that either the defendant created the harmful condition or that defendant had actual or constructive notice of such condition. Judge Baylson held that plaintiff did not provide sufficient evidence to prove either causation or notice. Plaintiff argued that Wal-Mart may have created the hazardous condition because a video showed a Wal-Mart employee unloading boxes near the area where defendant fell. However, Judge Baylson stated that this was mere speculation and thus insufficient to prove that Wal-Mart created the dangerous condition. Furthermore, plaintiff did not offer any evidence showing that Wal-Mart had actual notice or that the grapes were present on the floor long enough that Wal-Mart should have known about their presence. However, plaintiff requested the court to find that his lack of evidence relating to notice was a result of Wal-Mart’s destruction of evidence and thus argued that Wal-Mart’s motion for summary judgment should be denied. Judge Baylson found that there was a lack of evidence of the existence of any footage and by extension lack of evidence of destruction of the footage; therefore, plaintiff’s mere claim of spoliation barred summary judgment in the case.  Thanks to Melisa Buchowiec for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:BGIbbons@wcmlaw.com">Brian GIbbons</a> with any questions.

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