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Canavati v. Costco Wholesale Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. California

October 18, 2019



          Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Costco Wholesale Corporation's motion for summary judgment as to Plaintiff Rania Canavati's single cause of action for negligence. See Dkt. No. 33. The Court held a hearing on the motion on October 17, 2019. See Dkt. No. 40. Having carefully considered the parties' arguments, the Court DENIES the motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are based on the evidence viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff as the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (on a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [her] favor”).

         On September 4, 2016, between approximately 1:30 and 1:33 p.m., Plaintiff slipped and fell on a clear liquid on the floor while walking down an aisle at a Costco store located in South San Francisco. See Dkt. No. 33-2, Ex. A (“Canavati Depo.” at 30:23-31:22; 34:4-20; 40:24- 41:11; 46:5-25); Dkt. No. 36-2 (“Eyad Canavati Decl.” at ¶ 5). Although Plaintiff does not recall the exact location where she fell, it was somewhere toward the back of the store near the refrigerator and freezer section. See Canavati Depo. at 28:6-29:5. Plaintiff's husband, who was with her at the time, took photographs of where she fell a few minutes later, and noted the time on his phone as 1:33 p.m. See Canavati Depo. at 29:7-17; Eyad Canavati Decl. at ¶¶ 4-5.

         Defendant's employees conduct regular inspections of the store, during which they look for spills or other hazardous conditions. See Dkt. No. 33-3 (“Wardhani Decl.” at ¶¶ 4-6). As relevant here, Defendant's inspection log from the day of Plaintiff's fall indicates that such inspections were conducted from 12:00 to 12:19 p.m., and again from 1:00 to 1:40 p.m. See Dkt. No. 33-3, Ex. A. Defendant's employee Yeni Wardhani conducted the 1:00 p.m. inspection. See Wardhani Decl. at ¶ 5; Dkt. No. 36-1, Ex. 3 (“Wardhani Depo.” at 12:17-14:12, 15:13-16:15). During this inspection, Ms. Wardhani's task was twofold: she both looked for potential hazards and also checked the digital thermometers on the front of the refrigerators and freezers to ensure that they stayed within the proper temperature range. Id. at ¶ 7; Wardhani Depo. at 34:16-36:16; 39:7-40:9. Ms. Wardhani's inspections take approximately 40 minutes, on average, to complete. See Id. at 25:18-22.

         In the present motion, Defendant contends that Plaintiff has not proffered evidence that Defendant had any actual or constructive notice of the liquid on the floor, as Plaintiff lacks any evidence of where the liquid came from; what it was; or how long it was on the floor prior to her fall. See Dkt. No. 33-1 at 1-2, 5. Defendant further contends that the undisputed evidence shows that Defendant had performed an inspection of the area where Plaintiff fell, and found no hazards in the five to fifteen minutes before Plaintiff's fall. See Id. Plaintiff counters that triable issues of fact exist as to when Defendant inspected the area where Plaintiff fell. See Dkt. No. 36 at 6-8.


         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court may only consider evidence that is admissible. See Orr v. Bank of Am., NT & SA, 285 F.3d 764, 773 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Beyene v. Coleman Sec. Servs., Inc., 854 F.2d 1179, 1181 (9th Cir.1988)). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) allows parties to object to evidence cited to support or dispute a fact. Here, both parties raise objections to the evidence submitted in relation to Defendant's motion. See Dkt. Nos. 36-3, 39. However, many of the objections concern evidence that is not material to the Court's decision. To the extent that certain facts or evidence are not mentioned in this order, the Court has not relied on them in reaching its decision. Moreover, even if the Court had considered such facts or evidence, the Court finds that they would not have changed its decision.


         Summary judgment is proper when a “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). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. And a dispute is “genuine” if there is evidence in the record sufficient for a reasonable trier of fact to decide in favor of the nonmoving party. Id. But in deciding if a dispute is genuine, the court must view the inferences reasonably drawn from the materials in the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986), and “may not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations, ” Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Shakur v. Schriro, 514 F.3d 878, 884-85 (9th Cir. 2008).

         With respect to summary judgment procedure, the moving party always bears both the ultimate burden of persuasion and the initial burden of producing those portions of the pleadings, discovery, and affidavits that show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving party will not bear the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it “must either produce evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim or defense or show that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial.” Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000). Where the moving party will bear the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it must also show that no reasonable trier of fact could not find in its favor. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. In either case, the movant “may not require the nonmoving party to produce evidence supporting its claim or defense simply by saying that the nonmoving party has no such evidence.” Nissan Fire, 210 F.3d at 1105. “If a moving party fails to carry its initial burden of production, the nonmoving party has no obligation to produce anything, even if the nonmoving party would have the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial.” Id. at 1102-03.

         “If, however, a moving party carries its burden of production, the nonmoving party must produce evidence to support its claim or defense.” Id. at 1103. In doing so, the nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. A nonmoving party must also “identify with reasonable particularity the evidence that precludes summary judgment, ” because the duty of the courts is not to “scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact.” Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996). If a nonmoving party fails to produce evidence that supports its claim or defense, courts must enter summary judgment in favor of the movant. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         IV. ...

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