September 30, 2021
The DSB&C premises liability team successfully secured an Order granting Target’s Motion for Final Summary Judgment.
I. BACKGROUND OF CASE
In Urena v. Target Corp., Plaintiffs, as parents and natural guardians of their minor child, claimed their daughter sustained physical injuries when she struck an end cap in Target’s Palm Beach Lakes store while shopping with her mother and grandmother. Plaintiffs filed their Complaint alleging Target failed to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition, that Target knew or should have known of the dangerous condition, and that Target failed to warn the minor of the dangerous condition. Target denied liability and asserted that the end cap was not dangerous and was open and obvious. The depositions of the mother and grandmother revealed neither witnessed the incident nor could identify the portion of the endcap which the minor struck.
In response to Target’s Motion for Final Summary Judgment, Plaintiffs attempted to argue the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor to support their claims.
II. AMENDMENT OF FLORIDA’S SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Effective May 1, 2021, Florida state courts will apply the federal summary judgment standard laid out in Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. This new summary judgment standard breaks from Florida’s traditionally restrictive reading of the summary judgment rule. Since Target’s Motion for Final Summary Judgment was filed on May 10, 2021, the newly amended version of Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.510 applied.
The key differences about Florida’s adoption of the federal summary judgment standard are as follows:
- A moving party is not required to support its motion with affidavits or other materials negating the opponent’s claim. The moving party may discharge its burden by “showing” the there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325.
- The deadlines are more generous and requires a summary judgment motion to be filed at least 40 days before the hearing. The nonmovant must respond to the motion at least 20 days prior to the hearing. Before the amendment, the deadline to file a summary judgment motion was 20 days prior to the hearing, and a response could be filed only a few days prior to the hearing.
- Attorneys may rely on federal case law interpreting federal rule 56 in support of their motions or responses.
III. APPLICATION OF NEW SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD IN URENA V. TARGET CORP.
In ruling on Target’s Motion for Final Summary Judgment, the Court cited that under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, if the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine dispute as to the material facts, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Shaw v. City of Selma, 884 F. 3d 1993 (11th Cir. 2018). Conclusory allegations are insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact.
After a review of the record evidence, pleadings, and deposition testimony, the Trial Court determined there was no admissible evidence that the end cap which the minor struck was materially different from other end caps at the Target store, nor that any other person was ever injured by striking an end cap. The Trial Court further concluded that the end cap was both open and obvious and not inherently dangerous.
The Trial Court rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that res ipsa loquitor applied since the minor’s action in striking the end cap was the cause of her injury, the incident occurred in the absence of negligence of Target, and the end cap was available for inspection by Plaintiffs.
This matter is not final, and is subject to change, until the expiration of the relevant periods for any motion for rehearing and/or time for appeal has concluded. Click here to read the court’s ruling.