United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CROW, U.S. DISTRICT SENIOR JUDGE.
a Federal Tort Claims Act case arising from a trip and fall
at a post office. This case is now before the court upon
defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons
stated below, the court concludes that defendant has
succeeded in showing that there is a lack of evidence for an
essential element of plaintiff's case - that the post
office had actual or constructive notice of a dangerous
condition which it was obliged to abate. Therefore, the court
shall grant the motion for summary judgment.
Summary judgment standards
judgment is appropriate “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). A “genuine dispute as to a material
fact” is one “such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
“Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome
of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude
the entry of summary judgment.” Id. A movant
may show the absence of a genuine issue of material facts by
negating the other party's claim or by pointing out a
lack of evidence for the other party on an essential element
of that party's claim. Kannady v. City of Kiowa,
590 F.3d 1161, 1169 (10th Cir. 2010). If this
initial burden of production is met, the nonmovant may not
rest on her pleadings, but must bring forward specific facts
showing a genuine issue for trial as to the dispositive
matters for which she has the burden of proof. Id.
At the summary judgment stage, the court's job “is
not ... to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial. . . . If [however] the evidence is merely colorable .
. . or is not significantly probative . . . summary judgment
may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.
In applying the above standards, the court views the evidence
and all reasonable inferences therefrom in a light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. City of Herriman v.
Bell, 590 F.3d 1176, 1181 (10th Cir. 2010).
following facts are considered uncontroverted for the
purposes of defendant's motion, or, if they are
controverted, are interpreted in the light most favorable to
December 8, 2014, at around 10:15 a.m., plaintiff fell as she
entered from the outside into the lobby area of the United
States Post Office at 2921 SE Adams St., Topeka, Kansas. That
post office has two areas open to the public: a lobby area,
accessible from the outside through outward opening doors,
and the window area that is accessed from the lobby through
another set of doors. Plaintiff alleges that she tripped over
a floor mat just inside the lobby entrance and fell onto her
left knee. There were no witnesses to her fall.
has testified that after she fell, she looked at the floor
mat and noticed it was “kind of frayed, and it was
bunched up.” But, she didn't know whether it was
her fall that caused the mat to be bunched up. It was also
her testimony that she didn't notice the mat before she
fell and didn't know the condition of the mat or whether
it was bunched up before her fall. She has stated, however,
that she believed her foot went under the mat when she opened
the door and that this caused her to trip.
reported her fall to the post office manager, Susan Grasmick,
not long after she fell. Grasmick took plaintiff's
statement and filled out a handwritten accident investigation
worksheet. According to the worksheet, plaintiff reported
that she tripped on the entrance rug. Plaintiff refused
medical assistance and told Grasmick that “she was just
extremely embarrassed.” Grasmick took a photograph of
the floor mat.
Grasmick completed an electronic version of the accident
investigation worksheet. On the electronic version, Grasmick
reported that “the lobby rug was in place and slightly
buckled in some areas.” Grasmick has testified that she
had no knowledge about the condition of the mat immediately
before plaintiff fell, or what caused the buckles she
observed after plaintiff fell. The floor mat was provided by
Cintas, a company under contract to replace the post
office's mats on a regular basis. Grasmick has no
knowledge of prior falls by customers at the post office.
Henderson cleans the lobby area of the post office every
weekday morning from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. when he leaves to
attend to other post offices. Part of his job every day is
vacuuming and checking the floor mats. Henderson has not been
told that part of his job is checking the mats for
“buckles” or wrinkles. But, he tries to make sure
the mats are in the right place and he has stated that he
would remove a bad rug if he saw one. Henderson cleaned the
lobby of the post office on the day plaintiff fell, but he
left the building around 8:00 a.m. He testified that the rugs
were flat when he was there on December 8, 2014. He also
testified that he had no specific memory of their condition
on that day.
employees assigned to the post office do not enter the
building through the lobby and they perform almost all of
their duties in areas other than the lobby. On a daily basis,
a postal employee will service mail boxes that are located in
the lobby. On less than a daily basis, a postal employee may
go into the lobby area to replenish certain mailing supplies.
is no written policy advising employees to make sure the
floor mats are flat. But, Grasmick testified that any unsafe
condition should be abated immediately. The post office has
weekly five-minute safety meetings and an annual meeting
regarding slip-and-fall safety. But, the meetings relate to
employee safety not customer safety.
There is no evidence that the post office had actual or