Mott v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP
To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the defendant had an obligation to negate the factual claims as framed by the complaint; before the plaintiff acquired any obligation to produce evidence that would tend to show that the defendant had notice of the alleged premises defect, the defendant had the burden of producing evidentiary support for its assertion that its lack of notice was an undisputed fact. Matthew Mott filed this action against Wal-Mart Stores East, LP alleging that he slipped and fell on ice in the defendant's parking lot breaking his ankle. The trial court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed claiming that the court improperly granted the motion based solely on the plaintiff's failure to file an opposing affidavit in support of his objection to the motion. The Appellate Court agreed and reversed the judgment. The defendant failed to meet its initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact regarding its notice of the alleged defect. In its motion for summary judgment, the defendant stated that the outcome of the case turned on the disputed issue of the defendant's actual or constructive notice of the alleged defect. The defendant asserted that the plaintiff "simply cannot offer any evidence that the [d]efendant had notice of the defect that caused his injury, namely, ice in the area where the [p]laintiff fell." To prevail on the motion, however, the defendant had an obligation to negate the factual claims as framed by the complaint. To that end, it was incumbent on the defendant to provide the court with more than its belief that it was "readily evident" that the plaintiff ultimately would be unable to meet his obligation at trial to produce evidence to prove that the defendant had actual or constructive notice of the alleged defect. The trial court stated that "[t]he material submitted by the defendant indicated that it had no notice of the alleged defect prior to the fall." The only evidence submitted was a portion of the plaintiff's deposition testimony. Nothing in that testimony supported the court's statement. The defendant did not provide an affidavit averring that it lacked such knowledge.