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Swingholm v. Pilot Travel Centers LLC

United States District Court, D. Wyoming

August 22, 2014

JAMES H. SWINGHOLM, Plaintiff,
v.
PILOT TRAVEL CENTERS LLC, a limited liability company, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

ALAN B. JOHNSON, District Judge.

This is a personal injury case arising from plaintiff's slip and fall in defendant's store. Defendant has moved for summary judgment arguing that plaintiff has failed to introduce admissible evidence of causation. Plaintiff argues that summary judgment should not be granted because there is a genuine issue of material fact as to causation, and he requests that the Court apply an adverse inference spoliation sanction to the evidence. For the following reasons, defendant's motion, ECF No. 29, is GRANTED and plaintiff's claims are DISMISSED.

BACKGROUND

On the morning of May 11, 2011, Plaintiff James H. Swingholm ("Plaintiff") stopped at Defendant Pilot Travel Centers LLC ("Defendant")'s store in Cheyenne, Wyoming to purchase fuel and some items from the store. It was snowing and raining as Plaintiff drove to the store. The roads were wet, but the snow was not sticking to the roads. After Plaintiff finished fueling his truck, he walked across the wet and slushy parking lot to the store's entrance. He did not notice any moisture or water inside the store as he entered, but he was not looking either. After he had walked a few feet into the store, his feet went out from under him, and he fell to the floor. He alleges that he sustained injuries to his left shoulder from the fall.

Plaintiff filed his Complaint on July 30, 2013, and he filed an Amended Complaint on August 19, 2013. [ECF Nos. 1, 4]. On June 20, 2014, Defendant filed its motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff responded, and Defendant filed a reply. [ECF Nos. 29, 33, 36]. The Court finds that this matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. It will first analyze the grounds for Defendant's motion, and then it will analyze Plaintiff's argument for an adverse inference spoliation sanction.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute of fact is genuine if a reasonable juror could resolve the disputed fact in favor of either side. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is material if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998). When the Court considers the evidence presented by the parties, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in the non-movant's favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of establishing the nonexistence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Lynch v. Barrett, 703 F.3d 1153, 1158 (10th Cir. 2013). The moving party can satisfy this burden by either (1) offering affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim, or (2) demonstrating that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A)-(B).

DISCUSSION

I. Causation

Defendant moves for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiff has failed to introduce admissible evidence to establish causation for the accident. Plaintiff argues that there is a genuine issue of material facts as to whether the floor where Plaintiff slipped was wet and whether the wet floor caused his fall.

"The elements of a negligence claim are: (1) the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) the defendant's breach of his duty was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries; and (4) the plaintiff was injured." Anderson v. Duncan, 968 P.2d 440, 442 (Wyo. 1998). "A plaintiff has the burden of proving all four elements of his negligence claim." Id.

In the instant case, Defendant argues that Plaintiff has failed to establish causation. Legal causation is defined as conduct that "is a substantial factor in ...


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