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Torres v. T.G.I. Friday's

December 15, 2006

ALEJANDRO TORRES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
T.G.I. FRIDAY'S, DEFENDANT/THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF
v.
FACILITEC, INC., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. Manning United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Alejandro Torres was employed by third-party defendant Facilitec. T.G.I. Friday's hired Facilitec to perform maintenance at its Batavia restaurant. Mr. Torres thus arrived at the Batavia T.G.I. Friday's on August 20, 2003, and injured himself while he was cleaning a fryer hood. He ultimately obtained workers' compensation benefits from Facilitec and then sued T.G.I. Friday's in the Circuit Court of Cook County, contending that T.G.I. Friday's negligence caused his accident. T.G.I. Friday's removed the case to this court based on diversity and filed a third-party complaint against Facilitec for contribution in the event that T.G.I. Friday's was found liable. T.G.I. Friday's motion for summary judgment is before the court. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

I. Background

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. On August 20, 2003, Mr. Torres arrived at the T.G.I. Friday's restaurant in Batavia. He was there in his capacity as a service technician for Facilitec, which had contracted with T.G.I. Friday's to perform maintenance. Lester Paul Stuart was Mr. Torres' "team lead" or supervisor. Mr. Stuart's duties with Facilitec including inspecting the restaurant, including the exhaust system, to make sure the area was safe prior to cleaning. Mr. Stuart and Mr. Torres were both at the Batavia T.G.I. Friday's during the evening of August 20, 2003.

Once the restaurant closed for the night, the employees of T.G.I. Friday's left and Mr. Stuart inspected the kitchen. The deep-fry device in the kitchen has an exhaust hood which, among other things, provides light due to the five light bulbs covered by glass globes which are located inside the fryer hood. At Mr. Stuart's deposition, he testified that in the course of inspecting the kitchen, he looked underneath the hood of the fryer and noticed that a glass globe over one of the light bulbs was cracked. Stuart Dep. at pp. 25-36. He believes that he noted the crack on his check-in inspection sheet, id. at p. 26, but the actual check-in sheet used on the date of the accident, which contains an area asking about any problems with the hood lights, does not appear to have been submitted to the court.*fn1

The evidence regarding the condition of the globe at the time of the inspection (i.e., whether it was cracked or broken) is disputed. Prior to the accident, Mr. Stuart "remember[ed] saying something to him [Mr. Torres] about it [the cracked globe]," id. at 27. On the other hand, Mr. Torres disputes that Mr. Stuart saw that the globe was cracked during the inspection. In support, he notes that Mr. Stuart did not say anything when he looked under the hood. Torres Dep. at pp. 29, 31-32. Mr. Torres also testified that after he cut himself, Mr. Stuart told him that when T.J.I. Friday's was doing inventory to establish what maintenance work needed to be performed, the globe must have been "broken." Id. at p. 43-45. In addition, Mr. Torres testified that after the accident, Mr. Stuart looked up into the hood "and that's when he noticed that the light bulb was busted." Id. at p. 44.

The court next turns to the events in the kitchen after the inspection. Mr. Stuart changed the filter in the hood and he and Mr. Torres began to clean the kitchen. In the course of performing this task, Mr. Stuart rinsed off the hood of the fryer using a pressure washer. Mr. Stuart testified that while he was rinsing underneath the hood, water splattered on the cracked globe and caused it to break. Stuart Dep. at p. 30. Mr. Torres, unsurprisingly, contends that Mr. Stuart did not break the globe while he was pressure-washing the hood and again points to his testimony to the effect that Mr. Stuart told him that the globe must have been already broken when the two men arrived at the restaurant. He also states that it would have been impossible for Mr. Stuart to have broken a globe when he worked on the filters because the filers are on the opposite side of the hood from the globe which cut him, and that he also could not have broken the globe with the power washer because the hood has a lip which safeguards the lights inside the hood. Torres Dep. at pp.45-47.

With respect to the actual accident itself, Mr. Stuart says that he warned Mr. Torres about the broken glass after the pressure-washing problem. He then left to get protective gloves (so he could remove the broken globe) and take a cigarette break. According to Mr. Stuart, when he returned to the kitchen, Torres had injured himself. Mr. Stuart helped Mr. Torres staunch the flow of blood and the men left for the hospital, leaving a trail of blood and bloody rags in their wake. Mr. Torres received treatment for severed tendons in his arm and has been unable to work steadily due to his injuries.

Mr. Torres alleges that T.G.I. Friday's violated Illinois law by: (a) failing to properly monitor the hood to prevent injuries to persons cleaning the hood; (b) failing to inspect the hood for dangerous or hazardous conditions; (c) failing to warn persons cleaning the hood of an existing dangerous and hazardous condition; (d) failing to provide adequate safety measures to prevent injury to persons cleaning the hood; and (e) failing to properly repair the hood to prevent injury to persons cleaning it.

II. Discussion

A. Jurisdiction

The record shows that T.G.I.Friday's is a citizen of Texas and New York. In turn, Mr. Torres is an Illinois citizen, has expressly stated that he is pursuing more than $75,000, and appears to have been severely injured. Thus, jurisdiction is proper. See Meridian Sec. Ins. Co. v. Sadowski, 441 F.3d 536, 541 (7th Cir. 2006) (the plaintiff's "estimate of the claim's value must be accepted unless there is 'legal certainty' that the controversy's value is below the threshold").*fn2

B. Standard for A Motion For Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper when the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of any material fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party opposing the summary judgment motion "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading"; rather, it must respond with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). "The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Valenti v. Qualex, Inc., 970 ...


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