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Premises Liability - Summary Judgment

Unger v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., [Ms. 1170657, Oct. 19, 2018] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2018). The Court (Sellers, J.; and Stuart, C.J., and Bolin, Parker, and Wise, JJ., concur) affirms a summary judgment entered in favor of Wal-Mart and its employees by the Mobile Circuit Court in a premises liability/personal injury/wrongful death action upon concluding the plaintiff failed to present substantial evidence of any breach of a duty owed by Wal-Mart to the business invitee injured on its premises. Quoting South Alabama Brick Co. v. Carwie, 214 So. 3d 1169, 1176 (Ala. 2016), the Court reiterates (Ms. *6) the scope of the duty owed by an invitor to a business invitee:

“Alabama law is well-settled regarding the scope of the duty an invitor owes a business invitee. ‘The owner of premises owes a duty to business invitees to use reasonable care and diligence to keep the premises in a safe condition, or, if the premises are in a dangerous condition, to give sufficient warning so that, by the use of ordinary care, the danger can be avoided.’ Armstrong v. Georgia Marble Co., 575 So. 2d 1051, 1053 (Ala. 1991) .... We have said that a premises owner’s duty to warn extends only to ‘hidden defects and dangers that are known to [the premises owner], but that are unknown or hidden to the invitee.’ Raspilair v. Bruno’s Food Stores, Inc., 514 So. 2d 1022, 1024 (Ala. 1987).”

The Court rejected the plaintiff’s contention that Wal-Mart’s duty was defined by its own standard operating procedure for staging shopping carts which, plaintiff alleged, was breached when the Wal-Mart greeter failed to give plaintiff’s decedent a single, unattached shopping cart when he arrived at the store. The Court reasons that even if Wal-Mart’s standard operating procedure could be used to define the scope of the duty owed, plaintiff failed to present substantial evidence of a breach of that duty by any Wal-Mart employee. Ms. *8.

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