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Ciciora v. CCAA

December 20, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joan Humphrey Lefkow United States District Judge

Judge Joan H. Lefkow


Plaintiff, Lela Ciciora ("Ciciora"), slipped and fell on ice and is suing the defendants, CCAA, Inc., d/b/a Burrito Jalisco ("Burrito Jalisco"), and Bridgeview Bank Group, Trust 13137 ("Bridgeview") (collectively, "defendants"), for negligence.*fn1 Jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, as Ciciora is a citizen and resident of Indiana and the defendants are Illinois corporations. Bridgeview's L.R. 56.1(a) statement of material facts, at ¶¶ 1-3; 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Now before the court are motions for summary judgment filed by the defendants. Dkt. No. 55, Dkt. No. 59. For the following reasons, those motions will be granted.

I. Facts

The weather in the Chicago metropolitan area on December 13, 2005 was, not surprisingly, overcast and approximately 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Bridgeview's L.R. 56.1(a) statement of facts ("Bridgeview's statement"), at ¶ 14; Ciciora's L.R. 56.1(b) statement of facts ("Ciciora's statement"), at ¶ 6, Ex. E. There was no precipitation. Id. The local climatological data maintained by the United States Department of Commerce reflects that on the previous day, December 12, 2005, 0.06 inches of precipitation fell in the area. Ciciora's statement, at Ex. E.

Ciciora ordered lunch from Burrito Jalisco, a Mexican restaurant near where she was working at the time. Ciciora's statement, at ¶¶ 1, 2. She drove to Burrito Jalisco to pick up her order at approximately 10:30 A.M. Bridgeview's statement, at ¶ 21. Ciciora parked in the parking lot, got out of her car, and stepped up onto the sidewalk. Ciciora's statement, at ¶ 3; Bridgeview's statement, at ¶ 23.*fn2 Ciciora had a well-lit, unobstructed view of the sidewalk. Bridgeview's statement, at ¶¶ 17, 18. The sidewalk had been cleared of snow. Bridgeview's statement, at ¶ 10; Ciciora's statement, at ¶ 7. At 9:00 A.M., Juan Herrera, an employee of Burrito Jalisco, had, pursuant to his usual practice, salted the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. Bridgeview's statement, at ¶¶ 9, 11; Ciciora's statement, at ¶ 15. Ciciora did not see any ice on the sidewalk. Bridgeview's statement, at ¶¶ 19, 26. The sidewalk was level and not defective. Bridgeview's statement, at ¶¶ 20, 31-33.

Ciciora had taken a few steps on the sidewalk and was about twenty steps from the door to the restaurant when her left foot began to slide. Bridgeview's statement, at ¶¶ 12, 24. She slipped and fell, landing on her left leg, fracturing her foot, and striking her head on the ground. Ciciora's statement, at ¶¶ 3, 4. After she fell, she noticed an eight inch wide patch of ice on the sidewalk where she slipped. Ciciora's statement, at ¶ 3. Ciciora does not know the source of that ice. Bridgeview's statement, at ¶ 28. After her fall, Ciciora's son, Richard Ciciora, came to the scene. Ciciora's statement, at ¶ 7. Richard observed some mounds of ice on the sidewalk.

Ciciora's statement, at ¶ 7. He described the place where his mother fell as a two to three feet wide icy area. Ciciora's statement, at ¶ 7.

Bridgeview Bank Group, Trust 13137 ("Bridgeview") is the owner of the premises where Burrito Jalisco is located. Bridgeview's statement, at ¶ 3. CCAA, Inc. operates and does business as Burrito Jalisco and leases its space from Bridgeview. Ciciora's statement, at ¶ 14. The lease obligates Bridgeview to maintain "the parking lot, driveways, and sidewalks, including snow and ice removal." Bridgeview's statement, at ¶ 8. In practice, Bridgeview hired a contractor to plow the parking lot but left shoveling and salting the sidewalk to Burrito Jalisco. Bridgeview's statement, at ¶ 9; Ciciora's statement, at ¶¶ 10, 12, 15, 21.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). To determine whether any genuine issue of fact exists, the court must look beyond the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in the record. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) Advisory Committee's notes. The court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party as well as view all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986); Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423 F.3d 763, 773 (7th Cir. 2005).

The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of proving that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed. 2d 265 (1986); Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Info. Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005). In response, the non-moving party cannot rest on bare pleadings alone but must use evidentiary tools to designate specific material facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000). A material fact must be outcome determinative under the governing law. Insolia, 216 F.3d at 598-99. Summary judgment is proper against "a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

III. Discussion

The elements of an Illinois common law negligence claim are the existence of a duty from the defendant to the plaintiff, breach of that duty, causation, and injury. McLean v. Rockford Country Club, 816 N.E.2d 403, 352 Ill. App. 3d 229 (Ill. App. Ct. 2nd Dist. 2004).*fn3 Property owners do not have a general duty to remove snow or ice that accumulates naturally on their premises. Judge-Zeit v. General Parking Corp., 875 N.E.2d 1209, 1216, 214 Ill. Dec. 922 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 2007). To avoid the effect of this "natural accumulation rule," a plaintiff must plead that the defendant caused or aggravated an unnatural accumulation of snow or ice; that he undertook to remove snow or ice and did so negligently; or that he had a contractual obligation to remove snow or ice and breached that duty. Williams v. Lincoln Towers Assocs., 566 N.E.2d 501, 503, 207 Ill. App. 3d 913 (Ill. App. Ct. 2nd Dist. 1991). Regardless of the presence of a natural accumulation of snow or ...

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