for [Rose] to prevail on her claim she must prove that she was owed a duty of care by the United States, that a breach of this duty proximately caused her injuries, and that the United States had actual or constructive notice of the allegedly unsafe condition in time to correct it." Stewart v. United States, 918 F. Supp. 224, 226-27 (N.D. Ill. 1996) (collecting cases). The United States challenges Rose's ability to satisfy any of these elements, and asks for judgment as a matter of law.
The general rule in Illinois is that property owners, including public entities, are under no obligation to clear naturally accumulating snow and ice from their premises. Kiel v. City of Girard, 274 Ill. App. 3d 821, 654 N.E.2d 1101, 1104, 211 Ill. Dec. 291 (Ill. App. Ct.), appeal denied, 164 Ill. 2d 565, 660 N.E.2d 1271 (Ill. 1995); Madeo v. Tri-Land Properties, Inc., 239 Ill. App. 3d 288, 606 N.E.2d 701, 702, 179 Ill. Dec. 869 (Ill. App. Ct. 1992); Williams v. Alfred N. Koplin & Co., 114 Ill. App. 3d 482, 448 N.E.2d 1042, 1046, 70 Ill. Dec. 164 (Ill. App. Ct. 1983) (no duty to remove snow and ice from sidewalks adjoining property). While a property owner must exercise reasonable care when taking steps to remove snow and ice from its property, Madeo, 606 N.E.2d at 702, the "mere removal of snow, which leaves a natural accumulation of ice on the surface, does not of itself constitute negligence," Webb v. Morgan, 176 Ill. App. 3d 378, 531 N.E.2d 36, 39, 125 Ill. Dec. 857 (Ill. App. Ct. 1988), appeal denied, 124 Ill. 2d 563, 535 N.E.2d 922 (Ill. 1989); Williams, 448 N.E.2d at 1046; Timmons v. Turski, 103 Ill. App. 3d 36, 430 N.E.2d 1135, 1137, 58 Ill. Dec. 884 (Ill. App. Ct. 1981). Moreover, "ruts and uneven surfaces created by traffic in snow and ice are not considered unnatural and cannot form the basis for liability." Harkins v. System Parking, Inc., 186 Ill. App. 3d 869, 542 N.E.2d 921, 924, 134 Ill. Dec. 575 (Ill. App. Ct. 1989); Erasmus v. Chicago Housing Authority, 86 Ill. App. 3d 142, 407 N.E.2d 1031, 1033, 41 Ill. Dec. 533 (Ill. App. Ct. 1980) (holding that rutted and uneven ice caused by pedestrian traffic could not be considered "unnatural"). Because Rose has not presented sufficient evidence to support a finding that her injury was caused by an unnatural accumulation of ice or snow, we conclude that she cannot survive summary judgment.
Although Plaintiff alleges in her complaint that the snow and ice she fell upon was an unnatural accumulation, Amend. Compl. PP 5-6, she has offered no facts to support this assertion. She claims that the ice and snow on the sidewalk was "bumpy," "lumpy," and "hard," yet it is clear that such conditions alone, even if caused by foot or car traffic, are insufficient to constitute an "unnatural accumulation." Harkins, 542 N.E.2d at 924; Galivan v. Lincolnshire Inn, 147 Ill. App. 3d 228, 497 N.E.2d 1331, 1332, 101 Ill. Dec. 18 (Ill. App. Ct. 1986)
; Erasmus, 407 N.E.2d at 1033. Rose speculates that because custodial employees of the Post Office shoveled the sidewalk during the week prior to her accident, she must have fallen on an unnatural accumulation of ice and snow. Not so. Hardened ice and snow may have naturally accumulated, and the United States would not be liable for exposing such natural accumulations. Kiel, 654 N.E.2d at 1104; Webb, 531 N.E.2d at 39; Williams, 448 N.E.2d at 1046; Timmons, 430 N.E.2d at 1137. Rose simply assumes that the postal employees created the ice and snow accumulation on the sidewalk, and does not even come close to presenting the factual showing needed to survive summary judgment. Compare Webb, 531 N.E.2d at 39-40 (upholding jury finding of negligence where plaintiff submitted expert testimony that run-off from piles of snow created by defendant would likely accumulate and freeze in place where plaintiff slipped), and Fitz Simons v. National Tea Co., 29 Ill. App. 2d 306, 173 N.E.2d 534, 538, 541 (Ill. App. Ct. 1961) (affirming jury finding of negligence where defendant admitted that he had plowed snow toward high end of parking lot, and that melting snow froze in area where plaintiff fell), with Madeo, 606 N.E.2d at 703-04 (affirming grant of summary judgment where plaintiff presented no evidence indicating that plowed snow melted and then reformed near spot of accident as ice), and Crane v. Triangle Plaza, Inc., 228 Ill. App. 3d 325, 591 N.E.2d 936, 940, 169 Ill. Dec. 432 (Ill. App. Ct. 1992) (affirming summary judgment because plaintiff failed to offer anything more than "complete speculation" as to "nexus between the snow pile on the periphery of the parking lot and the ice" upon which plaintiff fell). As the plaintiff has failed to submit any evidence of a nexus between the actions of Post Office employees and the conditions of the sidewalk, this part of her claim cannot survive summary judgment.
Plaintiff also bases Count I on an allegation that the driveway adjacent to the sidewalk had an "excessive" incline. Although the paucity of argument on this issue in her response brief essentially waives the claim, see Bakalis v. Golembeski, 35 F.3d 318, 326 n. 8 (7th Cir. 1994) (deeming argument made only in footnote in opening brief waived), we nonetheless consider its merits. "When a plaintiff alleges that the design of a sloping surface created an unnatural accumulation of ice, there must be evidence presented of the dangerous nature of the slope, that the slope was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries and that the landowner had notice of the defect." Crane, 591 N.E.2d at 941 (quoting Wells v. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., 171 Ill. App. 3d 1012, 525 N.E.2d 1127, 1129, 121 Ill. Dec. 820 (Ill. App. Ct. 1988)). Here, Rose offers nothing more than an allegation that the incline of the driveway caused her injuries, even though "the mere existence of a slope in the lot is not enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment," Crane, 591 N.E.2d at 941. She presents no expert testimony on the alleged incline or its effect on accumulations of ice and snow. Nor does she put forward evidence showing how the incline may have led to an unnatural accumulation of snow and ice. Quite simply, we find no evidence to support the plaintiff's allegations that the incline in the Post Office parking lot resulted in an unnatural accumulation of snow or ice on the sidewalk. "While a court must draw all reasonable factual inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant, summary judgment is proper where a plaintiff neglects to establish any factual support for a theory of recovery." Buscaglia, 25 F.3d at 535 (citation omitted). In this case Rose has failed to establish the necessary factual support for her theories of liability against the United States, and therefore we must grant the United States' motion for summary judgment.
For similar reasons, Count II cannot survive Salvino's motion for summary judgment.
At the outset, we observe that Salvino was not obligated to clear the sidewalk adjacent to the Post Office, or to remove anything other than snow from the parking lot. See Dyduch v. Crystal Green Corp., 221 Ill. App. 3d 474, 582 N.E.2d 302, 306, 164 Ill. Dec. 94 (Ill. App. Ct. 1991) (holding defendant not liable in tort for tasks it did not have a contractual duty to perform). However, because Salvino had a contract with the Post Office to remove snow from the parking lot, it was required to exercise reasonable care when performing this task. Madeo, 606 N.E.2d at 702 ("a party who contracts with a property owner to remove snow or ice also owes the customer of that property owner a duty of reasonable care"). In order to survive summary judgment Rose must show that in the course of Salvino's performance it created an unnatural accumulation of snow or ice that caused her to fall. Id.; Crane, 591 N.E.2d at 939. However, plaintiff does not submit any evidence on this point, such as the placement of the plowed snow or expert testimony on how this placement caused the allegedly dangerous conditions on the sidewalk. Rather, Rose merely asserts that Salvino must have neglected to clear the driveway area and therefore caused an unnatural accumulation to develop. Pl.'s Resp. at 16. As discussed above, this bare allegation is insufficient to overcome the burdens imposed by Rule 56. Accordingly, because the plaintiff has not pointed to any evidence indicating that Salvino breached any duty owed to her, we grant summary judgment to Salvino on Count II.
For the reasons set forth above, the defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted. It is so ordered.
MARVIN E. ASPEN
United States District Judge
JUDGMENT IN A CIVIL CASE
IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted.
June 10, 1996