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Chong v. Target Corp.

United States District Court, Eastern District of New York

May 12, 2015

ANNE CHONG, Plaintiff,


WILLIAM F. KUNTZ, II, United States District Judge

Anne Chong ("Plaintiff) brought a complaint against Target Corporation ("Defendant") on account of injuries that she sustained when she slipped on a liquid substance and fell to the floor while shopping at a Target store. Dkt. 1, p. 6-10 ("Compl.") at ¶ 20. Defendant now moves for summary judgment, arguing Plaintiff cannot meet her burden to show Defendant had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition. Dkt. 17-13 ("Memo for SJ") at 10-17. Plaintiff contests Defendant's argument that Defendant did not have constructive notice. Dkt. 17-15 ("Opp.") at 6-10. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART.


The following facts are either undisputed or described in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the non-moving party. See Capobianco v. City of New York, 422 F.3d 47, 50 n.1 (2d Cir. 2005).

Factual History

Around noon on September 2, 2013, Plaintiff slipped on a liquid substance that had accumulated on the floor while she was shopping at a Target store in Queens, New York. Dkt. 17-2("D's56.1 Statement") at ¶¶ 1-2, 39.[1] Plaintiff s accident occurred just after she entered the store. Id. at ¶ 3. Plaintiff only noticed the liquid after she fell. Id. at ¶¶ 6-7. Plaintiff did not observe any footprints, cart tracks, or tire tracks in the liquid or around it. Id. at ¶¶ 8-10. Neither did her twin sister, Bertha Chong, who arrived on the scene after Plaintiff fell. Id. at ¶¶ 44-45. Plaintiff and her sister both reported that they had no knowledge as to whether anyone walked in or around the liquid before Plaintiff fell, whether there were people in the area where Plaintiff fell prior to her accident, or whether any of Defendant's employees had walked through the area before Plaintiffs fall. Id. at ¶¶ 11-13, 25, 48-49. Further, both women reported they did not know the last time one of Defendant's employees was in the area or inspected the area where Plaintiff fell. Id. at ¶¶ 14-15, 49. The women also stated that they did not know how the liquid got on the floor, or how long it was on the floor prior to Plaintiffs fall. Id. at ¶¶ 18, 20, 26, 46-47, 52. Nor did either woman observe any debris in the liquid or anything else to indicate how long the liquid had been on the floor, or hear any other customers say anything about the liquid on the floor, how it got there, or how long it had been there. Id. at ¶¶ 17, 19, 24, 50-51, 53. There were no lighting issues in the area where Plaintiff fell and were no witnesses to Plaintiffs fall, although there is a security camera video that depicts the area in which Plaintiff fell for thirty minutes before her fall. Id. at ¶¶ 4, 23, 55; see also Dkt. 17-11 ("Video").

According to Daniel Bradlau, one of Defendant's employees who reported to the scene of Plaintiffs accident, the liquid looked "like a slushy ice drink." D's 56.1 Statement at ¶ 32 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Dkt. 17-10 ("Investigation Report") ("By the look of it, a guest spilled what may have been an ice treat"). Mr. Bradlau also reported that he had been in charge of making sure the store was clean and in good shape that day, and that he had not noticed any slush or ice anywhere on the floor of the store prior to Plaintiffs accident. D's 56.1 Statement at ¶¶ 34-36.

Procedural History

Plaintiff originally filed this action in Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Queens on December 2, 2013. Complaint. On January 27, 2014, Defendant removed this action to the Eastern District of New York on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Dkt. 1 at 1-2 ("Notice of Removal). On January 13, 2015, Plaintiff filed a supplemental complaint alleging the same facts as the state court complaint. Dkt. 15 ("Supp. Compl."). On May 1, 2015, Defendant moved for summary judgment on the basis that Plaintiff had failed to prove actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition. Memo for S J at 10-17.


I. Legal Standard

A court appropriately grants summary judgment if "the movant shows that 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). No genuine issue of material fact exists "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Lovejoy-Wilson v. NOCO Motor Fuel, Inc., 263 F.3d 208, 212 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). The moving party must meet its burden by pointing to evidence in the record, including depositions, documents, affidavits, or other materials which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A), (2); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, [the] Court will construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant." Brod v. Omya, Inc., 653 F.3d 156, 164 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The role of the district court is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but rather to perform "the threshold inquiry of whether there is the need for a trial[.]" Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).

If the moving party fulfills its preliminary burden, the burden shifts to the non-movant to raise the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Statements that are devoid of specifics and evidence that is merely colorable are insufficient to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. See Bickerstaff v. Vassar Coll., 196 F.3d 435, 452 (2d Cir. 1999); Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 1998). "A dispute about a 'genuine issue' exists for summary judgment purposes where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could decide ...

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