United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Northern Division
PAMELA J. RENVILLE, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.
ORDER AND OPINION
CHARLES B. KORNMANN United States District Judge
Pamela Renville filed a complaint with this Court on June 1,
2015, claiming negligence against the United States of
America pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act. This
negligence action arises from a slip and fall accident that
occurred at the Woodrow Wilson Keeble Memorial Health Care
Center ("WWKM") in Sisseton, South Dakota. The
defendant has moved for summary judgment. The Court is fully
advised on the matter.
was born on November 6, 1955, in Sisseton, South Dakota. She
is a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe and has
lived in Sisseton, South Dakota, her entire life.
January 11, 2013, Renville had a 3:00 p.m. appointment at
WWKM in Sisseton, South Dakota. As she was driving to her
appointment, she noticed the roads were still wet from rain
that occurred the prior night and decided to drive more
cautiously. Renville arrived at WWKM at approximately 3:15
p.m. and noticed the parking lot and sidewalk were wet. The
temperature was approximately twenty-nine degrees Fahrenheit
and the wind speed was eighteen miles per hour. She parked
her vehicle in the north parking lot and proceeded to walk
south on the sidewalk toward the entrance. At the entrance of
WWKM, an awning extends east and covers the sidewalk and part
of the road of the circular driveway. Renville was walking
under the north side of the awning when she allegedly slipped
on a patch of ice and fell approximately fifteen to twenty
feet from the door. PL's Dep. 51: 1-6. She testified she
did not see the ice when she fell. Id. at
53:25-54:1. When asked to describe the nature of the fall,
Renville indicated, "I didn't sway or go like, you
know, from being icy, I didn't sway or nothing. I was
just walking and then I just kind of like I just fell on my
butt." Id. at 58:3-5. Angela Johnson, an
employee working at WWKM, witnessed the fall and was close
enough to hear a loud popping sound. Johnson testified that
no salt was placed outside and that there was ample time for
the maintenance employees to put salt around the main
entrance of the building.
approximately 4:00 p.m., Renville was driven by ambulance to
Prairie Lakes Hospital in Watertown, South Dakota. Dr. Casey
Johnston evaluated the plaintiffs leg and determined she
fractured her left tibial shaft and performed surgery on her
the next day. Dr. Johnston had follow-up appointments with
Renville on January 31, 2013, March 7, 2013, and April 4,
has its own Maintenance Department. In the wintertime, the
maintenance crew at WWKM typically puts salt and sand on the
ground near the main entrance every hour. Id. at
14:8-12. Winfield Thompson, one of the maintenance employees,
testified that one spot of particular importance was the
sidewalk by the entrance near the north edge of the awning,
and that it was a normal occurrence for water to accumulate
and freeze on the sidewalk by the north side of the awning.
W. Thompson Dep. 8:6-9:10, 11:10-22, 12:4-18.
plaintiff has had prior injuries to her left leg. In 2009,
she broke her left femur when she fell on the ledge of a
sidewalk. As a result, she underwent surgery to have a rod
placed in her left leg. Renville also suffers from left foot
drop, which causes difficulty in lifting her left leg. Dr.
Johnston noted that "[m]ost people with a foot drop will
walk with what we call a steppage gait[, ] [m]eaning they
will look like they're trying to go up a step and their
foot tends to hit on their toe first instead of the heel, as
would be a normal gait pattern." Johnston Dep. 13:2-6.
Lastly, Renville has screws in her knee from multiligament
injuries. When asked whether the plaintiffs prior leg
complications contributed to her fall on January 11, 2013,
Dr. Johnston replied, "The fact that she has
pre-existing osteoarthritis and pre-existing foot drop
probably would put her at risk of falling just in and of
themselves, yes." Id. 21:18-23. The plaintiff
has designated Dr. Johnston as an expert in this case.
to Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the
Court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
"Summary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as
a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral
part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed
'to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive
determination of every action.' " Celotex v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986) (quoting Fed.
R. Civ. P. 1). The moving party has the burden of
establishing the absence of a genuine dispute of material
fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c). Once the moving party has met its
burden of demonstrating there is no genuine dispute of
material fact, "a moving party may not rest upon mere
denials or allegations, but must instead set forth specific
facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial."
Rose-Maston v. NME Hospitals. Inc., 133 F.3d 1104,
1107 (8th Cir. 1998). A genuine dispute arises "if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 206 S.Ct. 2505,
91 L.Ed.2d 202(1986).
Court must view the admissible evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party and give that party the
benefit of all reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence.
Country Life Ins. Co. v. Marks, 592 F.3d 896, 898
(8th Cir. 2010). However, the scope of admissible evidence is
quite finite: "Only disputes over facts that might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
substantive law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment." Paulsen v. Ability Ins. Co., 906
F.Supp.2d 909, 911 (D.S.D. 2012) (quoting Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505,
91 L.Ed. 202 (1986)).
Federal Tort Claims Act
Federal Tort Claims Act is a limited waiver of the United
States' sovereign immunity. 28 ...