Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 96L64 Honorable George S. Miller, Judge Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Cook
IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
In February 1996, plaintiff, John Koziol, filed a complaint against defendants, William Hayden, d/b/a Glenn Poor's TV Service, and Glenn Poor's, Inc. Plaintiff alleged that defendants negligently allowed an unnatural formation of ice to accumulate on the sidewalk leading up to defendants' premises, causing plaintiff to fall and injure himself. In December 1998, defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff failed to adequately show he fell as a result of an unnatural accumulation of ice and snow. In January 1999, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants, holding that a jury finding for plaintiff would be based on mere guesswork. Plaintiff appeals, arguing that summary judgment was improper because the cause of plaintiff's fall constituted a question of fact for the jury. We affirm.
According to plaintiff's complaint, in February 1996, he traveled to Glenn Poor's TV Service to shop for a videocassette recorder. As plaintiff walked along the concrete sidewalk leading to the store, he slipped on a layer of ice underneath the snow. Plaintiff stated in a deposition that he fell backward, landing on his buttocks. Plaintiff further stated that he injured his elbow and back.
After collecting himself, plaintiff got up and inspected the sidewalk. Plaintiff stated in a deposition that he observed a "patch of ice, *** relatively large, *** perhaps a few feet square." Plaintiff further stated he "had snow all over" himself and walked inside to complain.
During his deposition, counsel showed plaintiff a photograph of the sidewalk leading to the door and plaintiff identified the slab of concrete directly in front of the door as the one upon which he fell. Plaintiff stated that he fell "within arm's reach" of the door.
Defendants retained a structural and geotechnical engineer, John Frauenhoffer, to testify on their behalf. Frauenhoffer visited the scene of the accident and inspected the sidewalk and surrounding area. He observed, and plaintiff does not dispute, that:
"[T]he *** [b]uilding has a covered concrete entrance slab approximately 8'6" wide north to south between the north side of the building and the city sidewalk. *** The 4'6" wide city sidewalk running east to west abuts the north side of the entrance slab.
In general, the slabs generally slope downward from the building to the curb. However, where the entrance meets the city sidewalk, an area exists where a section of the city sidewalk slopes downward toward the building. The southwest corner is approximately 5/8" lower than the northwest corner. The northeast corner of the entrance slab section north of the service entrance is approximately [13/16"] lower than the northwest corner of the sidewalk section.
*** The concrete entrance slab slopes away from the door at approximately 5/8" per foot, which exceeds civil engineering standards for entrance slab drainage. Approximately five feet from the door, there begins an area ranging from zero feet to approximately two feet wide where water can pond, because the sidewalk slab is higher than the entrance slab, and the [c]ity sidewalk drains toward the entrance slab."
Frauenhoffer also rendered his professional opinion regarding the cause of plaintiff's fall, stating:
"At the location where [plaintiff] fell, the slope of the sidewalk exceeds standards for drainage, hence unnatural accumulations of ice cannot form for a distance of five feet from the door.
Water which is shed from the mansard roof can pond approximately five feet from the door, trapped by the [c]ity sidewalk. On the day of the accident, the weather was below zero ...