Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County. No. 91L1146. Honorable George S. Miller, Judge Presiding.
Released for Publication June 1, 1994.
Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J., Honorable Robert W. Cook, J., Honorable Frederick S. Green, J.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steigmann
JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the opinion of the court:
In February 1991, as plaintiff, Judith E. Fillpot, exited from one of defendant Midway Airlines' airplanes onto the tarmac of Willard Airport in Champaign, Illinois, she slipped and fell on a natural accumulation of ice. Plaintiff sued for personal injuries, alleging that defendant, as a common carrier, owed her the highest degree of care and breached that duty by failing to protect her from or warn her of the danger presented by the ice. The trial court agreed that defendant owed plaintiff the highest degree of care while she was deplaning but ruled that defendant did not breach this duty because plaintiff fell on a natural accumulation of ice. The court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff appeals, arguing that common carriers owe passengers a duty to protect them from the dangers presented by natural accumulations of ice.
In February 1991, plaintiff took a Midway Airlines flight from Chicago to Willard Airport in Champaign. When the plane arrived, plaintiff saw snow blowing past the windows of the plane. After the plane came to a stop on the tarmac, plaintiff went to the door of the plane and noticed that the weather conditions were extremely hazardous, including very high winds and ice particles blowing in the wind. From the top of the stairs, plaintiff could see snow and ice on the tarmac. Other passengers noticed that--without exception--the tarmac was uniformly and evenly covered with ice.
When plaintiff exited the plane, she was initially disorientated; however, she eventually determined what direction led to the terminal. No agent of defendant guided plaintiff or the other passengers toward the terminal after they deplaned. Plaintiff feared she was going to fall as she proceeded to the terminal and accordingly carefully watched where she walked. Nonetheless, she slipped on the ice and fell before reaching the terminal. Plaintiff did not know if the ice extended all the way to the terminal; however, she testified that the ice did extend from the plane to the point where she fell.
In September 1991, plaintiff filed a one-count complaint, alleging that defendant (1) failed to provide guidance or direction upon deplaning; (2) failed to offer ground transportation from the plane to the terminal; (3) parked and deplaned passengers in an area that was hazardous due to weather conditions; (4) failed to spread sand or other chemicals or abrasives; (5) failed to warn or caution passengers of the poor surface conditions; and (6) positioned the plane poorly. In her complaint, plaintiff also alleged that defendant published a policy manual which stated that accidents should be prevented, areas should be kept clear of snow and ice, and sand or cinders should be available at the gates for use on passenger walkways. However, she was never told of these policies, nor was she aware of who was responsible for removing any snow or ice.
In January 1992, defendant filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 1992)). The trial court denied this motion, holding that "defendant owed plaintiff a duty in the premises[,] i.e.[,] the exercise of the highest duty of care while plaintiff as alleged was deplaning."
In August 1993, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that no breach of duty occurred because plaintiff slipped on a natural accumulation of ice. The trial court deemed the facts undisputed, ruled that defendant did not breach a duty to defendant, and accordingly, granted defendant summary judgment. This appeal followed.
A. Defendant's Failure To ...