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Williams v. Emro Mktg. Co. - 229 Ga. App. 468, 494 S.E.2d 218 (1997)

Rule:

In responding to a motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff need not address issues not raised in the motion or present his entire case. Indeed, until a defendant pierces the allegations of the complaint on a particular issue, a plaintiff is neither required to respond to the motion on that issue, nor required to produce evidence in support of his complaint on that issue. The issues that must be rebutted on motion for summary judgment are those raised by the motion.

Facts:

One morning on his way to work, plaintiff Nathaniel Williams stopped for gas at a store operated by defendant EMRO Marketing Company ("EMRO"). He first paid in the store and then returned along the same route to pump gas. On his return, he slipped and fell, injuring his knee and other parts of his body. He never saw what he slipped on and he never saw any ice; no one else directly witnessed the fall. It rained the day before, and at the time of the fall, the temperature was still at or below freezing. A bystander who offered to help Williams up after the fall mentioned ice several times in an affidavit. Williams, joined by his wife, filed a negligence action against EMRO in Georgia state court seeking to recover damages for injuries. EMRO filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that Williams failed to present any evidence that ice was the cause in fact of his fall. The trial court granted the motion but failed to explain its ruling.

Issue:

Did Williams fail to present any evidence that ice was the cause in fact of his fall? 

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The appellate court reversed the trial court's judgment. The court found that the only appropriate appellate issue was "cause in fact" of the fall. Further, the court found that the circumstantial evidence was sufficient to survive summary judgment. Even though Williams never saw what he slipped on and did not see any ice, statements by others at the scene indicating that there was ice present tended to support a finding of fact that Williams slipped on ice. Williams' own lack of knowledge of the substance on which he slipped was not dispositive, the court ruled.

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