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Austin v. Walgreen Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 23, 2018

Robin Austin, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Walgreen Company, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued January 19, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. No. 2:15-cv-00104 - John E. Martin, Magistrate Judge.

          Before Bauer, Manion, and Rovner, Circuit Judges.

          Manion, Circuit Judge.

         Robin Austin sued Walgreen Co. after she slipped and fell at a Walgreens store in northwestern Indiana, breaking her knee. A magistrate judge, presiding by consent, granted summary judgment to Walgreen. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

          I. Background

         On a cold January day, Robin Austin went to a Walgreens store in Hebron, Indiana. When she arrived, a snowplow was leaving the parking lot. After spending some time in the store, she was walking toward the registers when she slipped and fell. Austin did not see anything on the floor that would have caused the fall. At her deposition, she described her experience this way: "I-walking towards the cash register, my right foot hit something wet, and all of my weight landed on my left knee. I went down, all my weight on my left knee, and then immediately fell backwards on my back." She assumes she slipped on water.

         Amber Parsons, another customer at the Walgreens that day, was the first to come to Austin's assistance after the fall. She does not recall seeing anything on the floor. Others who arrived at the scene shortly after the fall also did not see anything on the floor. Gabriel Luna, the assistant store manager, also testified that he was not aware that there was any water on the floor prior to Austin's fall.

         Stella Vanderhere, Austin's friend, arrived at the store approximately seven minutes after Austin fell. Vanderhere observed "water everywhere, " and she took several pictures showing puddles of water in the general area where Austin had fallen and where people had gathered after the fall.

         Sometime after Vanderhere's arrival, paramedics arrived to take Austin to St. Anthony Medical Center. The paramedics recorded that Austin told them she "was walking and slipped on wet floor." At St. Anthony Medical Center, the doctor noted that Austin told him "she was walking in Walgreens … when she slipped on water, and fell onto her left kneecap." Austin was diagnosed with a broken kneecap.

         Austin subsequently brought suit against Walgreen in Indiana state court. Citing diversity jurisdiction, Walgreen removed the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. The parties consented to the assignment of their case to a magistrate judge. Walgreen moved for summary judgment. In response to the motion, Austin submitted her statements to the paramedics and the doctor at St. Anthony Medical Center. Walgreen moved to strike those statements as inadmissible hearsay. In a single order, the magistrate judge granted the motion to strike and the motion for summary judgment. The judge concluded that the statements did not fit within an exception to the rule against hearsay and that Austin had failed to show that Walgreen's negligence caused her injury. Austin now appeals.

         II. Discussion

         We review the grant of summary judgment de novo, construing all facts and drawing all inferences "in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Zuppardi v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 770 F.3d 644, 649 (7th Cir. 2014). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 directs courts to enter summary judgment "if 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). When we review a motion for summary judgment, we do not "weigh the evidence" or "determine the truth of the matter." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). We merely "determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Id.

          The Supreme Court instructs that Rule 56 "mandates the entry of 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). So, to ...


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