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Walsh v. Pheasant Run

JANUARY 24, 1975.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. PAUL F. ELWARD, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiff, injured in a horseback-riding accident, was awarded damages by the court in the amount of $18,600. Defendant appeals from this judgment contending that (1) plaintiff could not amend her complaint after the close of evidence to allege that defendant was estopped from denying ownership of the stables at which the accident occurred, and (2) even if the amendment was proper, the evidence did not support the necessary elements of estoppel. No contention has been raised concerning the findings as to the cause of plaintiff's injuries or the amount of damages awarded to her.

On June 14, 1969, plaintiff, a guest at the lodge owned and operated by defendant, was injured when she fell from a horse at a nearby riding stable. She filed a complaint alleging that both defendant and Homestretch, Inc., owned and maintained the stable, and that their negligence in maintaining their equipment and training their employees was the proximate cause of her injuries. In her first amended complaint one Jerry Farmer was added as a defendant. Subsequently, following the entry of a permanent restraining order in bankruptcy, Farmer was dismissed from the suit. In its answer Homestretch admitted ownership and control of the stable but denied plaintiff's other allegations. Defendant denied ownership and control of the stables. The case proceeded to trial. *fn1

We need summarize only that evidence which is relevant to the issues raised on appeal.

Pursuant to section 60 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 110, par. 60) Edward McCardle, president of defendant, was called by plaintiff. *fn2 He testified that in June 1969 defendant owned a resort complex known as Pheasant Run Lodge consisting of 10 or 11 buildings and approximately 170 acres of land. Defendant's employees ran various facilities for the benefit of guests at the lodge. Prior to June 1, 1969, these included the bars, swimming pool, restaurant, tennis courts and equestrian stable. After June 1, 1969, the stable was rented to Jerry Farmer under an oral lease. McCardle personally owned the land on which the stable and riding ring were located but some years earlier had leased the land to defendant. For 5 or 6 months prior to June 1, 1969, Farmer had been an employee of defendant. Following the rental of the stable to Farmer, a sign saying "Homestretch" was erected in front of those facilities. After June 1, 1969, defendant had nothing to do with the day-to-day operation of the stable. Its employees there were placed on Farmer's payroll. The public was not specifically alerted that defendant no longer ran the stable. After June 1, 1969, defendant referred all inquiries made by lodge guests concerning the stables to that facility. The lodge had a telephone extension to the stable for the convenience of guests who wished to make riding reservations.

Defendant employed a public-relations manager. Advertisements were placed in Chicago newspapers and radio ads may have been used as well. Defendant distributed printed material to lodge guests explaining the various services which were available to them. These brochures were placed at the front desk and possibly in the rooms. An informational or "locater" sheet (plaintiff's Exhibit 1) was admitted into evidence. It consisted of a map of the resort complex and depicted the availability of the stables directly across North Avenue from the lobby and offices. A brochure (plaintiff's Exhibit 2) was admitted into evidence which portrayed the activities available to lodge guests. Prominently pictured were two people riding horses. The brochure included the following copy:

"Of course, these are also, all of the usual activities found at a fine resort * * * shuffleboard, horseback riding, tennis, billiards, pingpong, skeet shooting, water skiing and fishing."

A receipt (plaintiff's Exhibit 3) bearing the letterhead:


P.O. Box 64

St. Charles, Illinois, 60174


was admitted into evidence. The post office box and telephone number listed on the receipt were defendant's. The receipt was dated June 14, 1969.

James Walsh, husband of plaintiff, testified on her behalf that she was injured in an accident at the stable's riding ring on the afternoon of June 14, 1969. He knew that riding was available from previous visits to the resort. He had probably seen the "locater" sheet and brochure (plaintiff's Exhibits 1 and 2) on the night he and his wife checked into the lodge. He identified ...

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