United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. 30]
Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge
Blanche Tucker (“Plaintiff” or
“Tucker”), brings this negligence suit against
the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671,
et seq., for a slip-and-fall that occurred in a
United States Post Office in West Haven, Connecticut. Before
the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. For
the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment is GRANTED.
August 23, 2013, Tucker took the day off from work and went
to the Allingtown Post Office in West Haven, Connecticut to
buy stamps or get a money order. [Dkt. 30-1 (Def.'s Mot.
Summ. J. Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement), ¶¶ 1-2;
Dkt. 33-2 (Pl.'s Opp'n Mot. Summ. J. Local Rule
56(a)(2) Statement), ¶¶ 1-2; Dkt. 30-2 (Pl.'s
Dep.) at 25:21-22]. When she entered the premises, she
spotted her friend from church, Delores McQueen
(“McQueen”), who worked at the Post Office as a
Postal Clerk. [Dkt. 30-1, ¶ 3; Dkt. 33-2, ¶ 3]. The
people in the Post Office were abuzz with excitement over a
“huge” bug that was annoying the customers.
[See Dkt. 30-3 (McQueen Dep.), at 22:11-25
(“It looked like a bee as big as our heads. It was
huge.”); Dkt. 30-1, ¶ 4; Dkt. 33-2, ¶ 4].
Tucker alleges that McQueen asked her to spray the bug,
although McQueen does not recall doing so. [See Dkt.
30-1, ¶ 5; Dkt. 33-2, ¶ 5; Dkt. 33-5 (McQueen
Dep.), at 23:21-22]. Tucker obtained a spray bottle
containing unknown liquid, sprayed the bug, and attempted to
step on the bug when it came closer to the ground. [Dkt.
30-1, ¶¶ 5-10; Dkt. 33-2, ¶¶ 5-10]. In
the process of stepping on the bug, Tucker slipped and fell
on the ground. [Dkt. 30-1, ¶ 11; Dkt. 33-2, ¶ 11].
did not notice any wet spots on the floor prior to stepping
on the bug. [Dkt. 30-1, ¶ 12; Dkt. 33-2, ¶ 12].
Tucker testified that the area of the floor with which she
came into contact when stomping on the bug was in fact dry.
[Dkt. 30-1, ¶ 13; Dkt. 33-2, ¶ 13]. After getting
up, Tucker did not notice any other wet spots. [Dkt. 30-1,
¶ 16; Dkt. 33-2, ¶ 16]. McQueen had not asked
Tucker to step on the bug. [Dkt. 30-1, ¶ 17; Dkt. 33-2,
¶ 17]. Kevin Love (“Love”), the custodian,
indicated there was a “liquidy” spot about
“[t]he size of a soccer ball” that he was to mop
during the time when Tucker was present, but it is unclear
when the substance on the floor came to exist. [See
Dkt. 30-4 (Love Dep.) at 38:1-16]. Three days later, Tucker
received an x-ray and treatment to her leg. [See
Dkt. 30-2, at 41:2-25].
7, 2014, Tucker filed a claim for administrative settlement
with the United States Postal Services in the amount of $450,
000, which the United States Postal Service Tort Claims
Examiner/Adjudicator denied on September 18, 2014. [Dkt. 18-1
(Standard Form 95 Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death); Dkt.
18-2 (Administrative Letter)]. As required under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2401(b), Tucker has filed an administrative claim with
the appropriate federal agency within two years of the time
the claim accrued and filed this action within six months of
the date mailing of the notice of final denial of her claim,
thereby conferring jurisdiction upon this Court.
judgment should be granted if “there is 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). The
moving party bears the burden of proving that no genuine
factual disputes exist. See Vivenzio v. City of
Syracuse, 611 F.3d 98, 106 (2d Cir. 2010). “In
determining whether that burden has been met, the court is
required to resolve all ambiguities and credit all factual
inferences that could be drawn in favor of the party against
whom summary judgment is sought.” Id. (citing
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). Where, as here,
“a motion for summary judgment is unopposed, the
district court is not relieved of its duty to decide whether
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Vt. Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d
241, 242 (2d Cir. 2004). “If the evidence submitted in
support of the summary judgment motion does not meet the
movant's burden of production, then ‘summary
judgment must be denied even if no opposing evidentiary
matter is presented.'” Id. at 244
(emphasis omitted) (quoting Amaker v. Foley, 274
F.3d 677, 681 (2d Cir. 2001)).
order to defeat a summary judgment motion that is properly
supported by affidavits, depositions, and documents as
envisioned by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e), the opposing party is
required to come forward with materials envisioned by the
Rule, setting forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue of material fact to be tried.”
Gottlieb v. Cty of Orange, 84 F.3d 511, 518 (2d Cir.
1996) (internal citation omitted). A plaintiff may not rely
solely on “the allegations of the pleadings, or on
conclusory statements, or on mere assertions that affidavits
supporting the motion for summary judgment are not credible.
Id. (internal citations omitted). “At the
summary judgment stage of the proceeding, [a plaintiff is]
required to present admissible evidence in support of her
allegations; allegations alone, without evidence to back them
up, are not sufficient.” Welch- Rubin v. Sandals
Corp., No. 3:03CV481 (MRK), 2004 WL 2472280, at *1 (D.
Conn. Oct. 20, 2004) (citing Gottlieb, 84 F.3d at
518); see Martinez v. Conn. State Library, 817
F.Supp.2d 28, 37 (D. Conn. 2011).
FTCA Negligence Claim
28 U.S.C. § 1346(b), the United States is liable for its
employee's torts “in accordance with the law of the
place where the act or omission occurred.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1346(b)(1); see Caban v. United States, 728
F.2d 68, 72 (2d Cir. 1984); Davis v. United States,
430 F.Supp.2d 67, 73 (D. Conn. 2006) (“The Supreme
Court has, on numerous occasions, read the FTCA to mean that
the United State's [sic] liability is determined by state
substantive tort law.”). Connecticut law applies to
Tucker's claims because it would have applied if Tucker
had brought a negligence action against a private defendant.
essential elements of a cause of action in negligence are
well established: duty; breach of that duty; causation; and
actual injury.” Baptiste v. Better Val-U
Supermarket, Inc., 262 Conn. 135, 138 (Conn. 2002)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The
existence of a duty is a question of law. Gordon v.
Bridgeport Hous. Auth., 208 Conn. 161, 171 (Conn. 1988);
Dubuis v. U.S., 3:06CV01443(DJS), 2008 WL 410429, at
*4 (D. Conn. Feb. 12, 2008). “Only if such a duty is
found to exist does the trier of fact then determine whether
the defendant violated that duty in the particular situation
at hand.” Gordon, 208 Conn. at 171. The status
of a person entering onto a possessor's land determines
the duty owed by the possessor to such person: thus, an
ascending degree of duty is owed to a trespasser, a licensee,
and an invitee. Considine v. City of Waterbury, 279
Conn. 830, 859 (Conn. 2006). Tucker, who was a regular patron
of the Allingtown Post Office, was a business invitee on that
day because she went to buy stamps or get a money order, both
of which were offered for sale at the Post Office at the time
of her visit. [Dkt. 30-2, at 25:21-22]; see Corcoran v.
Jacovino, 161 Conn. 462, 465 (Conn. 1971) (“A
business invitee ‘is a person who is invited to enter
or remain on land for a purpose directly or indirectly
connected with business dealings with the possessor of the
land.'”) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts
§ 332 (Am. Law Inst. 1965)); Gomes v. United
States, No. 3:11-CV-01825, 2012 WL 5869801, at *4 (D.
Conn. Nov. 19, 2012) (where the parties did not ...