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In determining reasonable care, the absence of a written or verbal uniform cleanup or safety procedure is insufficient, alone, to prove failure to exercise reasonable care.
Plaintiff Cindy Planchard, filed suit against defendant the New Hotel Monteleone, LLC. Planchard alleged that as she traversed the lobby of defendant's hotel, she slipped on a foreign substance on the marble floor and fell, sustaining an injury. After discovery, New Hotel Monteleone moved for summary judgment. In support, it relied on a surveillance video of the accident. The video showed a hotel employee dry mopping the lobby area at 8:36 p.m., approximately three minutes before Planchard’s accident. Two "wet floor" signs were in place in the area. At 8:37 p.m., approximately one minute before her fall, two more "wet floor" signs were added to the area, and an employee continued to dry mop the area. Planchard was then seen to fall at 8:38 p.m. New Hotel Monteleone also submitted Planchard’s deposition testimony, where she acknowledged seeing the signs. She also testified she "had to walk around" the signs because there "was no other path to the front door." As a result, plaintiff stated she "walked to the side of the signs to get to the front door." Planchard did not dispute that she saw the signs, but asserted that she thought they were "chalkboard" and did not read them. She introduced pictures of the signs showing they did not have the traditional bright orange or yellow appearance, but were made of wood and brass. After a hearing, the district court denied New Hotel Monteleone’s motion for summary judgment.
Did the district court err in denying New Hotel Monteleone’s motion for summary judgment?
In the case at bar, the focus is on the third element of La. R.S. 9:2800.6(B) — namely, whether plaintiff has established that defendant failed to exercise reasonable care. New Hotel Monteleone asserted the surveillance video as well as Planchard’s deposition testimony proved it exercised reasonable care by placing "wet floor" caution signs in the area. However, Planchard contended that while she saw the signs, she did not recognize them as caution signs. A review of the picture of one of the signs introduced into the record indicated the sign base is made of wood. On the face of the sign is a brass plate containing the words "CAUTION WET FLOOR" on the top half and "PRECAUCION PISO MOJADO" on the bottom half. In the center of the brass plate, there was a pictogram of a falling figure surrounded by a triangle containing the words "CAUTION CUIDADO ATTENTION." The video evidence indicated that a total of four of these warning signs had been placed in the lobby prior to Planchard’s fall. Although Planchard took the position that the signs did not stand out from the surroundings, her deposition testimony established that she was aware of the presence of the signs. In particular, she testified that she "walked to the side of the signs to get to the front door." She further admitted to "weaving in and out of" the signs because "there was no other path to the front door." Under these circumstances, the undisputed evidence established Planchard saw the warning signs in the area prior to her fall. Any failure on her end to read these signs was a product of her own inattentiveness and not a result of the defendant's failure to take reasonable precautions.