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MERE SPECULATION “FALLS SHORT” IN OPPOSING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Posted by Christina Cribbs
In Taylor v. Thunderbird Lanes, LLC, plaintiff, an experienced league bowler, slipped and fell while bowling at defendant’s bowling alley. 2013 Ga. App. LEXIS 774 (Ga. Ct. App. Sept. 24, 2013). Plaintiff alleged that as she approached the lane to bowl, her feet slipped out from under her, causing her to fall on her back and fracture her ankle. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court. On September 24, 2013, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to defendant, the owner of the bowling alley.

At plaintiff’s deposition, she testified that she did not know why she fell and did not see any oil on the floor, because she was not looking down prior to the fall. Plaintiff’s son, who was also bowling with her, deposed that he saw a lot of oil on the bowling lane itself (past the foul line), but plaintiff presented no evidence that there was any oil on the “approach side” of the lane. In fact, defendant tendered evidence that the machine that applied the oil to the bowling lanes was set to automatically begin oiling the lane 4-6 inches behind the foul line. Additionally, plaintiff’s daughter-in-law bowled before plaintiff and had no problems.

The Court of Appeals explained that plaintiff had merely speculated that oil on the approach to the lane had caused her to fall, but presented no evidence to support this fact. Accordingly, the Court determined that there was no genuine issue of material fact about whether defendant’s alleged negligence created a hazardous condition that caused plaintiff’s fall. The Taylor case stands for the proposition that in order to overcome a motion for summary judgment, plaintiff is required to prove the existence of a hazardous condition; plaintiff may not merely make a guess about what caused her to fall.