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06/30/88 Alice Robinson, v. the Suitery

June 30, 1988

ALICE ROBINSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

THE SUITERY, LTD., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FOURTH DIVISION

526 N.E.2d 566, 172 Ill. App. 3d 359, 122 Ill. Dec. 307 1988.IL.1037

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas P. Quinn, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE LINN delivered the opinion of the court. JIGANTI, P.J., and JOHNSON, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINN

Plaintiff, Alice Robinson, brought this personal injury action against defendant, The Suitery, Ltd., after she injured her hand on glass that she contends was negligently disposed of in a commercial waste receptacle. The trial court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment on the ground that The Suitery did not owe her a legal duty in connection with disposal of waste materials.

On appeal, Robinson contends that the trial court erred because the facts support her theory that The Suitery owed her a duty of reasonable care in disposing of the fluorescent tubes since her injury was foreseeable, the cost of preventing such an occurrence was negligible, and the burden on defendant to prevent it was slight.

We affirm.

Background

Robinson was working at a mini-mall in Matteson, Illinois, on the day she was injured, November 15, 1982. She cut her hand on glass as she attempted to dispose of a bag of trash in one of two large commercial dumpsters that were used by all of the mini-mall's tenants.

Earlier, an employee of The Suitery, Terry O'Halloran, had disposed of several long fluorescent tubes. Because one of the dumpsters was nearly full, O'Halloran opened the lid of the second and attempted to put the glass tubes inside. A portion of the tubes protruded from the dumpster, so O'Halloran broke them off by shutting the close-fitting lid. According to plaintiff, this caused glass to spray over onto the adjoining dumpster, which was filled to the top. Because of Robinson's short stature, she had to raise her arm to reach the top of the full dumpster, and when she moved some boxes that she claimed The Suitery had left there, her thumb was speared by a shard of the fluorescent glass, causing nerve damage.

In essence, The Suitery's motion for summary judgment claimed that it did not owe Robinson a duty because the glass tubes were deposited where they should have been, in the garbage dumpster. Plaintiff, on the other hand, argued that the specific circumstances involved gave rise to a duty of reasonable care because The Suitery could foresee that its actions might cause injury. In addition, she contended that policy reasons support the imposition of a duty in this case. The trial court agreed with defendant.

Opinion

Duty is a question of law to be determined by the court. It encompasses legal and social policies, including the foreseeability of the injury, the magnitude of the burden of guarding against such injury, and the consequences of placing that burden on the defendant. (E.g., Martello v. Century Supply Co. (1987), 163 Ill. App. 3d 521, 516 N.E.2d 763.) The facts of a particular case are germane to this determination, because the existence of a duty depends on "[whether] under the facts of the case such a relationship exists between two parties as to require ...


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