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Walker v. Casey's General Stores

July 22, 2009

DONNA R. WALKER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CASEY'S GENERAL STORES, INC., A FOREIGN CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills United States District Judge

OPINION

RICHARD MILLS, U.S. District Judge

This case is before the Court on the Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

In this premises liability case, the Plaintiff alleges that she suffered personal injuries when she tripped and fell over an approximate 1.5" iron pipe on the Defendant's property. The Plaintiff claims that the pipe was sticking up out of the ground high enough to be a trip hazard but at the time was not readily observable. The Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion turns on the legal duty owed by the Defendant based on the Plaintiff's status.

I. BACKGROUND

Casey's General Stores, Inc., the Defendant, is the owner and operator of a convenience store and gasoline station located at 305 Macoupin Street, Gillespie, Illinois. Donna R. Walker, the Plaintiff, alleges that she was injured as a result of tripping over a pipe in a grassy area on the Defendant's property on April 15, 2006. The Plaintiff had taken four or five steps into the grassy area when she fell. The Plaintiff claims that she commonly cut through the Defendant's parking lot because it was safer than walking on the sidewalk.

The Complaint alleges, "Plaintiff was a customer at Defendant's facility and for said service was on Defendant's property." The Complaint further states that "after exiting the Defendant's building, and while still on Defendant's premises, Plaintiff tripped over an approximately 1 1/2 " iron pipe that was sticking up out of the ground. The Plaintiff further asserts, "Defendant had a duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition for its customers."

During her deposition on June 25, 2008, the Plaintiff testified that she had not entered Casey's on the day she fell and that she was not a customer of the store on that day. Rather, the Plaintiff was merely "cutting through" the Defendant's property on the way to her daughter's house. Moreover, the Plaintiff did not intend to patronize the store that day, though she had shopped there on other occasions. The Plaintiff notes that people sometimes went inside the store to use the restroom or for other purposes. Some individuals would look around without buying anything. Those individuals were not asked to leave. From 2004 until now, there have never been any "No Trespassing" signs on the Defendant's property.

On the day of her alleged fall, the Plaintiff had no interaction with anyone from Casey's and never informed anyone affiliated with the store about the alleged fall. Casey's employees Melissa Hartley and Amanda Sneed were not aware of Plaintiff's presence on the Defendant's property.

The Plaintiff's complaint alleges only negligence and makes no allegation that Casey's engaged in any willful or wanton conduct, or that willful and wanton conduct caused the Plaintiff's claimed injuries.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Summary Judgment Standard

The entry of summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, 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 Corp., 477 U.S. ...


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