United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 22)
Sorokin, United States District Judge.
Sanaa Khadda (“Khadda”) filed this personal
injury action against Defendant Target Corporation
(“Target”), alleging one count of negligence.
See Doc. No. 1 at 8-9. Target has moved for summary
judgment, Doc. No. 22, Khadda opposed the motion, Doc. No.
27, and the Court held a hearing. See Doc. No. 32.
After careful consideration of the parties’ briefs and
arguments, the motion is ALLOWED and the case is DISMISSED.
eight months pregnant at the time, visited the Everett,
Massachusetts Target store on September 9, 2012. Doc. No. 24
¶¶ 1, 3. Her two-year old son Omar, her
sister-in-law Magida Gobal (“Gobal”), her friend
Meryem Mosameh (“Mosameh”), and Mosameh’s
daughter accompanied her. Id. ¶ 2. When Khadda
entered the store, she was pushing Omar in a stroller.
Id. ¶ 5. Once entering, she went to a Starbucks
location near the entrance, id. ¶ 6, leaving
Omar behind with Gobal. Id. ¶ 7. While Khadda
was at the Starbucks, Omar lifted himself out of, and ran
away from, the stroller. Id. ¶ 8. After
returning from the Starbucks, Khadda noticed that Omar had
run off. Id. ¶ 9. Seeing him about fifty feet
away, she went after him. Id. ¶¶ 10, 11.
approaching Omar, Khadda moved from a tile floor onto a
carpet. Id. ¶ 12. A rubber component running
along the carpet’s edge “cover[d] the seem [sic]
between the tile and carpet to keep the carpet adhered to the
floor.” Id. ¶ 18. Once she reached the
carpet, Khadda tripped and fell, landing on her stomach.
Id. ¶ 13. She stayed on the ground while Target
employees, the fire department, and emergency medical
personnel attended to her. Id. ¶ 14.
Ultimately, an ambulance took her away. Id. ¶
15. Khadda does not know what caused her fall, id.
¶ 28, did not see any dirt or water near where she fell,
id. ¶ 29, and did not see the carpet bunched up
near where she fell. Id. ¶ 30. Target’s
post-incident investigation revealed no dangerous or
hazardous conditions near where Khadda fell, and that that
area was clean and dry. Id. ¶¶ 24-26.
However, while Khadda does not dispute the adequacy or
authenticity of Target’s investigation, Mosameh, either
shortly before or simultaneous to Khadda falling, testified
that she saw about three inches of the carpet lifted up, from
the corner going down. See Doc. No. 24-2 at 6.
Mosameh walked around that area upon entering the store and
“does not recall observing a defect on or with the
carpet.” Doc. No. 28 ¶ 26.
store surveillance camera video by the Starbucks recorded the
goings-on around, and including, Khadda’s fall.
See Doc. Nos. 24-3, 27-2. It reveals no visible
defect in the carpet in the area where Khadda walked before
falling (or any other area) and depicts numerous customers
walking over that very same area, both shortly prior to and
after, Khadda’s fall. Each of these customers walked
without incident. Khadda also does not appear to lose her
balance until she has taken a small number of steps onto the
trains its employees “to constantly be on the lookout
for any defector [sic] or dangerous conditions to ensure the
safety of Target’s guests and employees.” Doc.
No. 24 ¶ 23. Sean Curley (“Curley”),
Target’s Leader on Duty (“LOD”) at the time
Khadda fell, id. ¶ 17, walked through the area
of the incident at least once per hour, including prior to
Khadda’s fall, and “observed” no
“dangerous condition.” Id. ¶ 22.
Multiple Target employees also walked around that area of the
store around the time Khadda fell, see Doc. No.
24-3; see also Doc. No. 24 ¶ 21 (“Target
team members regularly walked through that area.”), and
the record contains no evidence that any of them noticed or
reported any dangerous condition or that anyone reported any
dangerous conditions to any of them.
judgment is appropriate when “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). Once a party “has properly
supported its motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts
to the non-moving party, who ‘may not rest on mere
allegations or denials of [its] pleading, but must set forth
specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for
trial.’” Barbour v. Dynamics Research
Corp., 63 F.3d 32, 37 (1st Cir. 1995) (quoting
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256
(1986)). The Court is “obliged to review the record in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and to draw
all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party’s
favor.” LeBlanc v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 6 F.3d
836, 841 (1st Cir. 1993). Even so, the Court is to ignore
“conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and
unsupported speculation.” Prescott v. Higgins,
538 F.3d 32, 39 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting
Medina-Muñoz v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.,
896 F.2d 5, 8 (1st Cir. 1990)). A court may enter summary
judgment “against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
Massachusetts law, “[t]o prevail on a negligence claim,
a plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed the plaintiff
a duty of reasonable care, that the defendant breached this
duty, that damage resulted, and that there was a causal
relation between the breach of the duty and the
damage.” Cracchiolo v. E. Fisheries, 740 F.3d
64, 69 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting Jupin v. Kasik, 849
N.E.2d 829, 834-35 (Mass. 2006)). The parties, agreeing that
Target owed customer Khadda a duty of reasonable care,
dispute whether Target breached that duty. Massachusetts
holds landowners liable for injuries invitees incur on their
premises under three conditions: (1) that the landowner knew
or reasonably should have known about the dangerous
condition, and knew or reasonably should have realized that
the dangerous condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm to
invitees; (2) that the landowner should expect that invitees
will not recognize the danger or otherwise fail to protect
themselves from it; and (3) that the landowner failed to take
reasonable care to protect invitees from the dangerous
condition. See Sheehan v. Roche Bros. Supermarkets,
Inc., 863 N.E.2d 1276, 1281 (Mass. 2007) (citing
Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343 (1965)).
Khadda’s claim falls short on multiple bases.
start, no reasonable jury could conclude that the carpet was
lifted up, as Mosameh testified, when Khadda tripped. While
ordinarily a jury would determine whether to credit
Mosameh’s contrary testimony, “[w]hen opposing
parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly
contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could
believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the
facts for the purposes of ruling on a motion for summary
judgment.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380
(2007). The Court’s close examination of the
surveillance video indicates that this is such a case. First,
as mentioned above, the video does not show any visible
folding over of the carpet before or after Khadda fell.
Second, what the video does show is several customers
proceeding unhindered right over the area where Khadda
crossed before falling both immediately before and after her
incident. Indeed, the Court does not observe any customers
even hesitating when proceeding over the area near where
Khadda fell. Third, Khadda did not appear to lose her balance
at all until she had walked passed the carpet’s
threshold. And fourth, Target’s investigation’s
undisputed finding of no dangerous condition near the carpet
only further belies Mosameh’s assertions. Simply put,
“the inferences that can reasonably be drawn are
limited by the existence of video evidence, ”
Mitchell v. Miller, 790 F.3d 73, 76 (1st Cir. 2015)
(citing Scott, 550 U.S. at 380-81). Crediting
Mosameh’s testimony would require the jury to find that
the carpet lifted up three inches instantaneously, before
immediately unfolding after Khadda fell, while leaving no
evidence of doing so. Given this overwhelming record, no
reasonable jury could find that the carpet was lifted up
before Khadda fell.
assuming one credits Mosameh’s testimony, there is no
evidence that any Target employee knew or reasonably should
have known of the lifted-up carpet prior to the accident.
Khadda argues that the Court should infer knowledge (actual
or constructive) from the presence of various Target
employees around the accident’s location on the video
prior to Khadda’s fall. This inference, on this record,
is untenable. Mosameh testified that she only observed the
purported hazard at (or just before) the moment of the
accident. She affirmatively stated that she did not notice it
upon entering the store shortly before the accident, and the
only other contemporaneous perspective in the record is
Khadda’s, who did not notice any bunching up of the
carpet at all. Combining this with the evidence on the video,
the Court cannot reasonably infer that Target employees knew
or should have known of this dangerous
finally, Khadda has not offered any evidence that Target
failed to take reasonable efforts to protect its invitees
from the risk of a sealed carpet folding over. The undisputed
evidence establishes that: Target trains all employees to
spot dangerous conditions; LOD Curley checked the area one
hour before the accident; and at least two employees were
right by the area where Khadda fell within the ten minutes
before the accident (with several others close by during that
time). Khadda has disputed neither Target’s actual
training of its employees nor that Curley actually examined
the area where Khadda fell within the hour before her
accident; has not submitted evidence, expert or otherwise,
supporting the conclusion that Target reasonably should have
done more; and has not cited case law suggesting that
reasonableness might require a greater effort in a highly
trafficked area such as that at issue in this case. In these
circumstances, Khadda has not met her burden to offer
evidence sufficient to permit a reasonable jury to conclude
that Target failed to take reasonable care to protect its
invitees from the risk of the sealed carpet folding over.
See Lay v. Jordan’s Furniture, Inc., No.
10-P-1344, 2011 WL 3444177, at *1 (Mass. App. Ct. Aug. 9,
2011) (Rule 1:28 Decision) (“[T[he record contains no
evidence suggesting any breach of that duty of reasonable
care on the part of the defendant. . . . The plaintiffs
demonstrated no applicable industry standard, building code,
or other regulation that would require any particular curb
height in Massachusetts. Nor did the plaintiffs offer any
expert testimony on the significance of the curb height, or
on whether the particular curb posed a danger to the
public.”); Gosselin v. Colonial Shopping Ctr.,
No. 09-P-2160, 2010 WL 3929421, at *1 (Mass. App. Ct. Oct. 8,
2010) (Rule 1:28 Decision) ...