Appeal and Hobby Lobby

Gary Corbin slipped on a grape or grapes in a Safeway produce aisle injuring his collateral ligaments and the kneecap of his right knee. He saw that there was no large non-skid, non-slip walk-off mat that is part of the store’s policy to have in front of the grape display. The policy of having the mat in front of the grape bin was from past experiences that showed that it was usually hazardous. Corbin alleged that the presence of the specific grape on the floor on which he slipped posed an unreasonable risk of harm and that Safeway had constructive knowledge of that risk.

Corbin testified that the grapes lying around him were discolored and ruptured. The trial court offered to let Corbin submit this issue to the jury but declined. YES. If an invitee sustains personal injuries from slipping and falling in a store they may recover damages by introducing evidence that a proximate cause of the fall was the storeowner’s failure to use reasonable care to protect its customers from the known and unusually high risks accompanying customer usage of a self-service display of goods (grapes). NO.

The fact that there were discolored and ruptured grapes around him while he was lying there does not prove that the grapes had been on the floor for a sufficient amount of time to impute the knowledge of their location to Safeway. The aging and discoloration may just as likely have occurred before as after the grapes fell, and the rupturing could have been caused during or soon before Corbin’s accident. Dixon v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. 380 F. 3d 311 (5th Cir. 2003) Appellee met with an accident in appellant’s store when her feet became entangled in plastic strips.

Appellee alleged that appellant was negligent and claimed for damages. Appellent claimed appellee has failed to prove her case. Dixon/customer/ Plaintiff below/appellant below/appellant here Vs. Wal-Mart Store Inc. /retail store/defendant below/appellee below/appellee here Appellee fell in appellant’s store while leaving the store. She fell when her feet got entangled in the rope like plastic strips which are used for binding newspapers or magazines into stacks. The resulting injuries were severe and she was immediately hospitalized and continued to take treatment for the injuries.

Appellee filed suit against appellant alleging that the injuries were of the direct result of appellant’s negligence who had failed to maintain the premises. Appellant later shifted the case to federal court under diversity jurisdiction. The jury found that appellant was responsible for negligence and found appellee was also at 50% fault and hence awarded only half of the damages. Appellant filed an appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court. Issue: Whether the trial court was correct in awarding damages to the appellee?

Holding: No, the trial court was not correct in awarding damages to the appellee. Procedure: Judgment of the trial court was reversed and remanded by the Fifth Circuit Court. Rule: For establishing premises liability on the business owner plaintiff has to prove, the actual or constructive knowledge of a condition in the premises by the owner or operator, the conditions posed an unreasonable risk of harm, the operator or owner did not take reasonable care for reducing or eliminating the risk, the owner or operator’s failure to take care has resulted in injuries sustained by the plaintiff.

The rule requires that the court should adopt the sufficiency of evidence standard in the de novo review (Rule 50) Rationale: Appellee has failed to prove through her evidence that appellant had constructive knowledge of the presence of risk of harm and hence the court has ruled favoring appellant. Astolfo v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (Tex. App. Houston{1st Dist. } May 22, 2008) Patricia and Harry Astolfo/customer/plaintiff below/appellant below/appellant here Vs. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

/retail store/defendant below/appellee below/appellee here Appellants, Patricia and Harry Astolfo (The Astolfo’s), appeal the trial court’s summary judgment against appellee, Hobby Lobby, Inc. (“Hobby Lobby”), for injuries sustained when two nesting tables fell from a shelf and struck Patricia Astolfo. We consider whether the Astolfo’s presented more than a scintilla of probative evidence of each element of their premises liability claim to defeat summary judgment. We affirm.

Patricia Astolfo was visiting Hobby Lobby when she was struck by two nesting tables that spontaneously fell from the top display shelf while she was walking down the aisle. Prior to this incident, the tables had been on the top display shelf for three to six weeks without incident. Patricia Astolfo contends that the tables were ‘stacked’. Much of the Astolfo’s argument is based on the faulty premise that the tables were ‘stacked’, much as one might do when storing items.

To the contrary, the tables at issue were ‘nesting’ tables, intended to stand one over the other, with the smaller underneath the larger of the tables. Each table stood independently. In the appeal from a traditional summary judgment, the appeals court determined that movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law but, said movant failed to to show any evidence to raise a genuine risk that Hobby Lobby had any constructive knowledge after a reasonable inspection of the sales floor had been made. Texas Appeals court does hereby affirm the judgment of trial court and uphold the summary judgment de novo.