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Hunt v. Target Corp.

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

July 1, 2019

Edwin and Louise Hunt, Plaintiffs
v.
Target Corporation, Defendant

          ORDER

          Steven J. McAuliffe United States District Judge

         Edwin and Louise Hunt bring two common law claims against Target Corporation, seeking compensation for injuries sustained as a result of Target's alleged negligence. Specifically, they claim that Target negligently maintained property adjacent to one of its stores by failing to properly remove accumulated ice and snow. While Mr. Hunt was making a delivery to that store, he stepped out of his truck, slipped on that accumulated ice, and severely injured his back, right hip, and knee. Louise Hunt seeks compensation for loss of consortium.

         Target moves for summary judgment, advancing two arguments. First, it says the property on which Mr. Hunt was injured is Limited Common Area of the Monadnock Condominium and, therefore, not part of Target's condominium unit. In simple terms, Target says it is not the owner of the property on which Mr. Hunt was injured and, therefore, owed no duty of care to him. Next, says Target, even if it did owe some duty to Mr. Hunt to ensure the area was clear of snow and ice, there is no evidence to support plaintiffs' claim that Target breached that duty. So, Target argues, it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on both of plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs object.

         For the reasons discussed, Target's motion for summary judgment is granted

         Standard of Review

         When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court is “obliged to review the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and to draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor.” Block Island Fishing, Inc. v. Rogers, 844 F.3d 358, 360 (1st Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). Summary judgment is appropriate when the record reveals “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In this context, a factual dispute “is ‘genuine' if the evidence of record permits a rational factfinder to resolve it in favor of either party, and ‘material' if its existence or nonexistence has the potential to change the outcome of the suit.” Rando v. Leonard, 826 F.3d 553, 556 (1st Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).

         Consequently, “[a]s to issues on which the party opposing summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, that party may not simply rely on the absence of evidence but, rather, must point to definite and competent evidence showing the existence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Perez v. Lorraine Enters., 769 F.3d 23, 29-30 (1st Cir. 2014). In other words, “a laundry list of possibilities and hypotheticals” and “[s]peculation about mere possibilities, without more, is not enough to stave off summary judgment.” Tobin v. Fed. Express Corp., 775 F.3d 448, 451-52 (1st Cir. 2014). See generally Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

         Background

         Target is the owner of Unit 5 in the Monadnock Condominium, on which it constructed one of its stores. That store is located in a shopping center known as Monadnock Marketplace, in Keene, New Hampshire. According to plaintiffs' complaint,

On February 22, 2015, Mr. Hunt was making a delivery to the Target store in Keene, New Hampshire. He was walking around his work truck to drop and hook a Target trailer of merchandise when he slipped and fell on ice that had accumulated in the docking area resulting in severe injuries to his back, right hip, and knee.

Complaint (document no. 1-1) at para. 5. At his deposition, Mr. Hunt testified that, on the date of his accident, he arrived at the Target store around midnight. Deposition of Edwin Hunt (document no. 13-8) 50. He backed up his truck to the elevated loading dock at the rear of Target's store, “got out of the truck, and walked around the front.” Id. at 66. He then slipped and fell on some ice “around the front of [the] tractor.” Id.

         The property on which Mr. Hunt fell is a concrete pad on which delivery trucks park, see Id. at 80, immediately adjacent to Target's elevated loading dock. The preliminary (and potentially dispositive) question presented by Target's motion for summary judgment is this: who owns that concrete pad on which Mr. Hunt was injured? Plaintiffs assert that Target owns that property or, at a minimum, is obligated by the relevant condominium documents to maintain that property in a safe condition. Target, on the other hand, asserts that the area where Mr. Hunt was injured is Limited Common Area, which is owned in common by all unit owners, and is maintained by the Monadnock Condominium Unit Owners' Association.

         Discussion

         I. New ...


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