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Hawkes v. Christiana Health System, Inc.

Superior Court of Delaware

May 31, 2017

CHARMAINE HAWKES, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTIANA HEALTH SYSTEM, INC. Defendant.

          Submitted: February 27, 2017

          Judge Calvin L. Scott, Jr.

         On Defendant Christiana Care Heath Services, Inc.'s

         This 31st day of May, 2017, upon consideration of Christiana Care Health Services, Inc.'s ("Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment, and Charmaine Hawkes' ("Plaintiff") Response, it appears to the Court that:

1. On August 10, 2013[1] Plaintiff was a visitor at Christiana Hospital located on Ogletown Stanton Road, Newark, Delaware.
2. While walking towards the elevators, Plaintiff alleges she slipped and fell on ice cream and sustained injuries.
3. At the time of the incident, a yellow cone was erected around the ice cream spill in question. Plaintiff contends that she slipped on the ice cream because the ice cream seeped out from the yellow warning cone.
4. Plaintiff's filed a Complaint on June 11, 2014, alleging that the slip and fall on the ice cream was caused by Defendant's negligence and/or Defendant's agents and/or employees.
5. On June 15, 2016, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant argues that summary judgment is appropriate because Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of negligence against Defendant, and Plaintiff was comparatively negligent which bars recovery as a matter of law.
6. "Owners and occupiers of commercial property have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for their customers, who qualify as business invitees under Delaware's premises liability common law."[2] Along the same lines, "patrons must also exercise reasonable care: they have an affirmative obligation to 'exercise the sense of sight in a careful and intelligent manner to observe what a reasonable person would see'."[3]
7. In this action, the "plaintiff-customer bears the burden of proving that: (i) there was an unsafe condition on the defendant's premises; (ii) the unsafe condition caused the plaintiff's injuries; and (iii) the defendant had notice of the unsafe condition or should have discovered it by a reasonable inspection."[4]
8. Granting summary judgment is "rare in a negligence action because the moving party must demonstrate not only that there are no conflicts in the factual contentions of the parties but that, also, the only reasonable inferences to be drawn from the uncontested facts are adverse to the plaintiff."[5]
9. Defendant's argument is twofold. First, Defendant contends that they warned patrons of the ice cream hazard because there was a yellow warning cone, which was open and obvious to Plaintiff. Second, Defendant argues that Plaintiff has not met her burden in a prima facie negligence case.
10.The Court is persuaded that genuine issues of material fact exist and summary judgment is inappropriate. It seems undisputed that there was a yellow warning cone somewhere in the vicinity of the ice cream spill. The exact ...

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