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Fintak v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago

OPINION FILED JULY 22, 1977.

SOPHIA FINTAK ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,

v.

CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JAMES H. FELT, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE LORENZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant, a corporation sole, appeals from judgments of $9,000 in favor of plaintiff Sophia Fintak (plaintiff) for her personal injuries and of $9,000 in favor of plaintiff Victor Fintak, Sophia's husband, for loss of consortium. It contends the trial court erred (1) by applying a duty of ordinary care to defendant, (2) by adjudging defendant to be negligent and plaintiff to be free from contributory negligence, and (3) by allowing plaintiff's counsel to improperly argue to the jury. In addition, it contends that if the judgment in plaintiff's favor is reversed, then the judgment in favor of plaintiff Victor Fintak must be similarly reversed because although it was a separate cause of action, it was dependent on defendant's liability to plaintiff.

The following pertinent evidence was adduced at trial.

For plaintiffs

Plaintiff Sophia Fintak

Sunday, December 21, 1969, was a wet, gloomy day with occasional snow flurries. She left her home at approximately 9:30 a.m. with her husband Victor to attend the 9:45 a.m. mass at Saint Priscilla's Church. She walked on wet pavement from her home to the car and was not wearing galoshes. She rode to the church and arrived at 9:35 a.m. She exited the vehicle under a canopy on the western side of the church, walked into the church vestibule, and proceeded at a normal pace to the center aisle at the rear of the church. She did not recall seeing a mat at the front entrance to the church; however, she later admitted previously stating that she had seen a mat. Neither the vestibule nor the center aisle was carpeted.

She was looking towards the altar as she proceeded up the aisle. She was not looking at the floor. There was another woman in front of her and to her right. When this other woman genuflected, plaintiff was at her side and not behind her. After she had passed four or five pews from the rear of the church, she slipped and fell on her left side. She did not trip over her own feet. Although the floor felt slippery, she did not see what she slipped on. As she hit the floor she heard a crack and felt an excruciating pain in her left side. Her husband and the ushers carried her to the vestibule and an ambulance drove her to Northwest Hospital.

She received several shots to relieve the pain at the hospital and was operated upon for a broken hip on the following day. She experienced numbness and pain in her leg, a sore back, and difficulty sleeping. She was hospitalized for six weeks.

She slept on a sofa in the lower level of her home for four months after she returned home. Victor brought a bed pan to her sofa, bathed her, and did the shopping and household duties during this period. She crawled up stairs and eventually was able to walk with the assistance of a walker and, later, a cane.

When the pain continued, she underwent a second operation on January 27, 1971. Although she is no longer in pain, she experiences a drawing sensation and has two hollow spots on her leg. A radiologist told her the fracture has healed completely. She has seen a doctor twice since March of 1971. She identified several hospital, doctor and medication bills related to her injuries.

On December 21, 1969, she was approximately 66 years old and was in good health.

John Joyce

He was Saint Priscilla's maintenance man in December 1969. The church floor had been mopped and a nonslippery sealer applied for the Christmas season. The aisles were also cleaned and waxed. A janitor's closet containing mops was located in the church vestibule. He never observed an usher mop the aisles in the church. However, after the witness was declared a hostile witness by the court based upon a prior inconsistent statement, defendant stipulated that Joyce previously stated the ushers mopped on wet, sloppy days. He stated that the floor wax was not slippery, but admitted previously describing it as "that slippery stuff."

On defendant's behalf, he identified a picture of a rubber mat and two strips of carpeting and stated they were both in the church vestibule on December 21, 1969.

William Balog

He was the usher in the center aisle at that mass. People brought water into the church on their shoes and their umbrellas. The church's aisles were wet. The center aisle was wet in spots extending halfway from the rear to the front of the church.

He knew where the mops were kept and had seen other ushers use them on prior occasions. He did not see any usher mop that morning. He did not mop because he felt it was a housekeeper's job.

As plaintiff was walking up the aisle, a woman genuflected in front of her and plaintiff tried to avoid a collision. Plaintiff's legs crossed, made contact, and she fell on her left side. Although her feet crossed, he did not see them hook together ...


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