Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel Wins Donnelly v. Walmart Stores Case

Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel Wins Donnelly v. Walmart Stores CaseDonnelly v. Walmart Stores E., No. 20-11070, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 2905 (11th Cir. Feb. 3, 2021)

[MIAMI] Wendy Donnelly was shopping at Walmart. Another customer was walking down an aisle with a container in her cart and spilled a clear liquid on the floor, leaving a puddle. Just over a minute later, Donnelly walked down that aisle, slipped on the puddle, and fell. She did not see the liquid before her fall. Ms. Donnelly sued Walmart for negligence alleging Walmart failed to exercise reasonable care in maintaining its premises, and that it had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition.

Pleadings

The district court set a deadline to amend the pleadings. 72 days after the district court’s pleading amendment deadline, Donnelly moved for leave to amend her complaint to add that Walmart was also negligent by failing to “install, maintain, and provide safe flooring surfaces on its premises” and that Walmart had actual or constructive notice that its flooring becomes unreasonably dangerous when wet. The district court denied Donnelly’s motion. Walmart moved for summary judgment, alleging Donnelly could not show that Walmart had actual or constructive knowledge of the spill. The district court granted summary judgment to Walmart. Ms. Donnelly appealed.

The appellate court agreed with the district court that Donnelly’s argument alleging that a Walmart employee saw the spill Donnelly slipped on was pure speculation, which is not enough to survive a motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that Donnelly failed to prove that Walmart had actual knowledge of the spilled liquid. The court also concluded that Donnelly did not show Walmart had constructive knowledge of the spilled liquid because her argument that a Walmart employee was in the vicinity of the spill was not persuasive.

Conclusion

Lastly, the appellate court held that the district court did not err when it denied Donnelly’s leave to amend because: (1) Donnelly filed her motion after the scheduling order’s deadline; (2) Donnelly’s amendment attempted to add a new theory of negligence and she failed to establish good cause for such an amendment; and (3) the district court was not required to allow for her leave to amend after that deadline.

For those reasons, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Walmart. The case was led by HM&B partners Michael J. Dono, William H. Edwards and Suzette L. Russomanno and HM&B Associate Annalisa Gutierrez.

 

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