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Ramirez v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

August 28, 2019

JOSE RAMIREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DETERMINATION OF LAW [ECF. #19]

          S. KATO CREWS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This Order addresses Defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.'s Motion for Determination of Law Regarding Status of Plaintiff Under Colorado Premises Liability Act [ECF. #19] (the “Motion”). The Court has reviewed the Motion, Plaintiff Jose Ramirez's (“Ramirez”) Response [ECF. #24], Wal-Mart's Reply [ECF. #28], the entire docket, and applicable law. Oral argument will not materially assist the Court's determination. The Court GRANTS the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit arises out of an altercation between Ramirez and Wal-Mart's asset protection employees. The facts relevant to the Court's ruling are not in dispute. Wal-Mart consents to the public entering its property for the purpose of transacting business. [ECF. #19 at p. 5; ECF. #24 at p. 6.] It does not consent to individuals stealing its merchandise. [ECF. #19 at p. 2; see generally ECF. #24.]

         On August 4, 2016, Ramirez was shopping at Wal-Mart with his minor nephew. [ECF. #24 at p. 1.] He attempted to exit the store while he and his nephew concealed goods in a cooler he purchased. [ECF. #19 at pp. 1-2; see generally ECF. #24; see also ECF. #42 at ¶2.] After he passed the store's final point of purchase without attempting to purchase the items in the cooler, two members of Wal-Mart's asset protection team apprehended Ramirez in Wal-Mart's vestibule as he was leaving the store with the unpurchased items. [ECF. #19 at p.1; ECF. #24 at p. 1.] Ramirez alleges he sustained physical injuries when a third member of Wal-Mart's asset protection team stomped on his ankle while he was being restrained on the ground. [ECF. #19 at p.1; ECF. #24 at p. 1.] He brought this action asserting a claim under Colorado's Premises Liability Act, a negligence claim, and claims of vicarious liability and respondeat superior.[1] [ECF. #3 at ¶¶15-36.]

         The Parties previously stipulated to the following undisputed facts in prior filings with the Court:

1. On or about August 4, 2016, at all times relevant to Plaintiff's claim, Defendant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was engaged in the business of operating a retail store, the property located at 2770 W. Evans Avenue, Denver, CO 80219, Store #5676.
2. On August 4, 2016, the Property was real property within the meaning of C.R.S § 13-21-115.
3. On August, 42016 and at all time relevant to the Plaintiff's claims, Wal-Mart was in possession of the Property, was legally responsible for the condition of said property or for the activities conducted or circumstances existing on said property, and were therefore “landowners” as defined in C.R.S § 13-21-115.

[ECF. #13 at p.4 (Undisputed Facts); ECF. #38 at p.6 (Stipulations); see also ECF. #15 at p.4 (Undisputed Facts).]

         Wal-Mart seeks a declaration of law (or partial summary judgment) under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 on the question of Ramirez's classification under the Premises Liability Act. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-21-115 (the “CPLA”). Wal-Mart asserts that Ramirez was a trespasser under the CPLA at the time of his alleged injuries. Ramirez argues that he was an invitee or licensee under the statute.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Ordinarily, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, summary judgment is warranted on an issue only where the pleadings, depositions, admissions, affidavits, and other exhibits show that there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the moving party is therefore entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). In limited circumstances, however, Rule 56 may be used to determine a question of law when no genuine issue of material fact is necessary for the determination of the question of law. Cf. Id. A fact is “material” if, under the relevant substantive law, it is essential to proper disposition of the claim. Wright v. Abbot Labs., Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). An issue is “genuine” if the evidence is such that it might lead a reasonable trier of fact to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Allen v. Muskogee, 199 F.3d 837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997). Whether there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact depends upon whether the evidence presents sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49; Carey v. U.S. Postal Serv., 812 F.2d 621, 623 (10th Cir. 1987).

         In analyzing a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S .574, 587 (1986)). In addition, the Court must resolve factual ambiguities against the moving ...


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