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Summary judgment shall be rendered if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Miss. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Summary judgment is appropriate when the nonmoving party has failed to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to the party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. An appellate court reviews the grant of summary judgment de novo and will view evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion has been made.
In August 2012, plaintiff John Renner was traveling from Jackson, Mississippi, to his home in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife, and two other family members. They decided to stop by McDonald's, after he received his order, plaintiff set his food down at a table and walked to the condiment station. As plaintiff turned back around to return to his table, his left foot struck a protruding leg of a highchair, causing him to fall and suffer injury to his face and left shoulder. Two and a half years later, he filed suit against defendant McDonald's; Retzer Resources, Inc., owner and operator of the McDonald's Winona branch; and Velencia Hubbard, manager of the said branch. During discovery, the defendants claimed that video footage of the fall no longer existed. The defendants moved for summary judgment and argued that the plaintiff could not demonstrate the existence of any genuine issue of material fact that the highchair was in a dangerous condition, that any alleged danger was hidden, or the defendants had actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged dangerous condition. The trial court ruled in favor of the defendants finding that plaintiff was an invitee of McDonald's, and therefore, McDonald's owed a duty to keep the premises reasonably safe and to warn only when there was hidden danger, not in plain and open view. And the trial court found that the presence of a high chair in a restaurant like McDonald's was clearly a normal and usual condition that an invitee could expect to encounter. Therefore, McDonald's cannot be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries in this case. The trial court found that plaintiff had failed to produce any evidence that any McDonald's employee had placed the high chair in his path or had any actual or constructive knowledge that the high chair posed a danger to him. Plaintiff appealed and raised two issues on whether summary judgment was granted erroneously because the plaintiff had proved each element of his premises-liability claim, and whether the defendants' loss or destruction of key video evidence prohibited the grant of summary judgment.
Was the plaintiff’s contention that summary judgment was granted erroneously because he had proved each element of his premises-liability claims correct?
The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded. The court held that the trial court erred by granting the defendant fast-food restaurant’s summary judgment in the slip and fall action because a question of fact remained as to whether the defendant restaurant had actual knowledge of the alleged dangerous condition and failed to warn the plaintiff or whether the defendant restaurant had constructive knowledge of the condition. The court also ruled that the fellow restaurant patron who testified during a deposition, that the legs of the highchairs protruded into the aisle and were obscured from view behind a half wall, and claimed to have personally witnessed at least three customers bump into or kick the highchairs, and she had repeatedly altered several of the restaurant's employees about her concerns regarding the alleged hidden nature and dangerous condition of the highchairs, was admissible under Miss. R. Evid. 701 because it was based on her own observations.