may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
Renee M. Keeler, et al.,
Holiday Plus Stores, Inc.,
File No. C1969252
J. Richard Baldwin, 810 Degree of Honor Building, 325 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellants)
Peter G. Van Bergen, Andrea E. Reisbord, Cousineau, McGuire & Anderson, Chtd., 600 Travelers Express Tower, 1550 Utica Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55416-5318 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Short, Judge.
After suffering a knee injury in a slip and fall at a Fridley store, Renee M. Keeler sued Holiday Plus Stores, Inc. On a defense motion, the trial court concluded Keeler's claims were based on speculation and granted summary judgment in favor of the store. On appeal, Keeler argues logical factual inferences bar entry of judgment as a matter of law. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
On appeal from summary judgment, we determine whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the trial court erred in its application of the law. Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.03; State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990). While we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, summary judgment is appropriate against a party who fails to establish the existence of an element essential to its case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986).
A prima facie case of negligence requires evidence of: (1) a duty owed by the defendant; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) causation; and (4) injury. Hudson v. Snyder Body, Inc., 326 N.W.2d 149, 157 (Minn. 1982). Whether a duty exists is a question of law, which we review de novo. Larson v. Larson, 373 N.W.2d 287, 289 (Minn. 1985) (existence of duty presents legal issue); Frost-Benco Elec. Ass'n v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm'n, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984) (de novo review). A shopkeeper owes a general duty to invitees to act reasonably in inspecting and maintaining the premises in a reasonably safe condition for the use of the invitees. Messner v. Red Owl Stores, Inc., 238 Minn. 411, 413, 57 N.W.2d 659, 661 (1953). Before liability attaches, an injured person must show the injuries were caused by a dangerous condition created or ignored by the shopkeeper. Id.
Keeler argues logical inferences drawn from the undisputed facts demonstrate a store employee was responsible for the puddle that caused Keeler's injuries. However, the undisputed facts demonstrate Keeler slipped and fell in a puddle outside a store restroom. There is no direct or circumstantial evidence concerning the source of the puddle or how long the puddle was on the floor outside the restroom. At the close of discovery, Keeler is only able to speculate about the possibility that an employee brought a container to work that caused the spill. Under these circumstances, the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the store. See Bob Useldinger & Sons, Inc. v. Hangsleben, 505 N.W.2d 323, 328 (Minn. 1993) (affirming grant of summary judgment where nonmoving party engages in mere speculation and conjecture); see also Messner, 238 Minn. at 413-15, 57 N.W.2d at 661-62 (grant of judgment notwithstanding verdict where no direct evidence as to how banana peel came to be on floor).