California Court Holds Plaintiff Failed to Present More Than Speculative Evidence Showing Movie Theater’s Negligence Following Fall  

Recently, a California Court of Appeal issued an unpublished opinion in a premises liability and negligence lawsuit brought by an individual who suffered a serious fall in an AMC movie theater bathroom. The appellate court, on review, assessed whether the plaintiff’s evidence showed conduct constituting negligence, based on premises liability. After assessing the facts and testimony, the court held that the plaintiff had merely shown conjecture or speculation, and this would not be sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find the defendants knew of a dangerous condition on their premises.

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The facts of this case indicated that the plaintiff had been found on the restroom floor, next to a urinal that had occasionally malfunctioned by overflowing. There were no substances found on the floor aside from the plaintiff’s blood.

In reviewing the summary judgment granted in favor of AMC, the court stated that the issue is whether a triable issue of material fact remained, and whether the moving party was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

The appellate court held that the plaintiffs had not forfeited their theory that the malfunctioning urinal caused the liquid on the floor, which led to the plaintiff’s fall. The plaintiffs had not raised a different legal theory on appeal but instead pointed to facts in their opposition to the defendant’s summary judgment motion that supported their theory of how the slip and fall took place.

Initially, the court stated, the plaintiffs had alleged the floor was slippery. The court stated that since they have a duty to consider all of the evidence offered in connection with a motion for summary judgment in the light most favorable for the plaintiffs (the nonmoving party), they cannot ignore facts that had been included in the plaintiffs’ opposition to the summary judgment motion.

Regarding evidence of premises liability, the court stated that the issue was whether the facts and inferences supported a showing of negligence, based on premises liability.  In this case, the plaintiffs argued there was sufficient evidence of negligence based on premises liability, and the defendants had constructive notice of a dangerous condition.

The court stated that the basis of the plaintiffs’ argument was that the defendants failed to inspect the property. According to the plaintiffs, AMC policy requires employees to check restroom conditions every 30 minutes. They contended that there was no proof this policy had been followed at the Manteca AMC.

The plaintiffs cited a case involving a plaintiff who had slipped and fallen on spilled milk that had not been discovered and cleaned by a large department store. But the court stated that in this case, there was no evidence of a substance on the floor that would have caused the plaintiff to slip.

The court stated that the plaintiffs’ theory of why they fell was based on conjecture or speculation.  Here, the plaintiffs contended that AMC employees failed to abide by policy and inspect the restroom, and this led to the slippery floor and the plaintiff’s fall.  In fact, the court stated, there was nothing showing the floor was slippery or indicating what caused the plaintiff’s fall. Simply because the restroom was not checked did not mean the floor was slippery.  While there had been testimony regarding an overflowing urinal, the court stated that there was no evidence the urinal overflowed on the day the plaintiff fell.

Reviewing the evidence once more, the court stated that the speculative inference that a urinal overflowed and caused a slippery floor was negated by the emergency responder’s testimony that there were no other substances on the floor.

The court stated that based on the evidence set forth by the plaintiffs, a jury could not make an inference beyond a guess or conjecture that a urinal caused the plaintiff’s fall, or another substance on the floor caused the plaintiff’s fall, nor could the jury find that the defendants had knowledge of a dangerous condition.

The appellate court affirmed the judgment.

The premises liability attorneys at Sharifi Firm provide legal representation to injured individuals throughout Southern California. We are available for a free consultation. Contact our office at 1-866-422-7222.

More Blog Posts:

California Court Finds Plaintiff Pursuing Premises Liability Claim Did Not Prove Property Owner Knew of Dangerous Condition of Stairwell, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, February 11, 2016

California Court of Appeal Finds Condition Outside Pacific Palisades Vons Market Not Dangerous, Plaintiff Not Entitled to Damages for Slip and Fall Accident, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, August 11, 2016

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