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Date: 02-28-2017

Case Style:

Walter Knox v. Staples The Office Superstore, LLC

Case Number: 1 CA-CV-16-0043

Judge: Thompson

Court: Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One

Plaintiff's Attorney: Tim Berg, Bill Ridenour and Emily Ward

Defendant's Attorney: Mike Herzog

Description: ¶1 Plaintiff Walter Knox appeals the superior court’s summary
judgment for defendant Staples the Office Superstore, LLC (Staples), on his
negligence claim. For the following reasons, we reverse the grant of
summary judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 Knox tripped and fell on an A-frame, or “sandwich board,”
sign that was lying flat on the floor of the entrance to a Staples store. The
sign had been displayed outside the store, but due to windy conditions, an
employee brought it inside the store and placed it against the wall near the
store entrance. Shortly thereafter, Staples’s employees heard a loud crash
near the entrance and immediately went to investigate. They found Knox
lying on the floor near the sign.

¶3 Knox filed this action alleging Staples’s failure to maintain its
premises in a reasonably safe condition caused him damage. Staples
moved for summary judgment, arguing that Knox had failed to show that
Staples created the dangerous condition by placing the sign in the walkway
or that it had notice of the hazard for a sufficient amount of time that it
should have, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, remedied it. The
superior court granted the motion, ruling that Knox had not presented any
evidence to establish a material question of fact regarding whether Staples
knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. Knox timely
appealed.

DISCUSSION

¶4 The trial court shall grant summary judgment when “there is
no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law.” Ariz. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Summary judgment
“should be granted if the facts produced in support of the claim or defense
have so little probative value, given the quantum of evidence required, that
reasonable people could not agree with the conclusion advanced by the
proponent of the claim or defense.” Orme Sch. v. Reeves, 166 Ariz. 301, 309,
802 P.2d 1000, 1008 (1990). If the evidence would allow a jury to resolve a
material issue in favor of either party, summary judgment is improper.
United Bank of Ariz. v. Allyn, 167 Ariz. 191, 195, 805 P.2d 1012, 1016 (App.
1990).

¶5 A business owner “is not an insurer of the safety of a business
invitee, but only owes a duty to exercise reasonable care to his invitees.”
Walker v. Montgomery Ward & Co., 20 Ariz. App. 255, 258, 511 P.2d 699, 702
(1973). Thus, the mere occurrence of a fall on business premises does not
establish that the proprietor was negligent. Id. Rather, under Arizona law,
Knox was required to prove one of three circumstances to prevail on his
claim: (1) that Staples caused the dangerous condition, (2) that Staples had
actual knowledge of the dangerous condition, or (3) that the dangerous
condition had existed for such a length of time that Staples would have
discovered and remedied it if it had been exercising ordinary care. Preuss
v. Sambo’s of Arizona, Inc., 130 Ariz. 288, 289, 635 P.2d 1210, 1211 (1981).

¶6 Knox argues Staples, when it leaned the sign against the wall
near the entrance of the store during windy weather, caused the dangerous
condition that led to his injury. Knox argues that Staples should have
anticipated that the wind would topple the sign and create a hazard for
customers.

¶7 The facts demonstrate that the time between the sign being
leaned against the wall and the sign falling was short, possibly under ten
minutes, and there is no evidence in the record of any other cause for the
fall of the sign, other than the wind. The store manager testified that the
sign had previously fallen during windy weather and the wind could have
“absolutely” knocked the signage over. For these reasons, we agree that a
reasonable jury could conclude that by placing the sign against the wall
Staples created a dangerous condition which resulted in an injury to Knox.

Outcome: ¶8 For the foregoing reasons, we reverse. Knox is entitled to an
award of costs on appeal upon his compliance with Arizona Rule of Civil
Appellate Procedure 21.

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:

Comments:



 
 
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