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Jones v. Graphic Arts Finishing Co.

January 15, 2010

THOMAS JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GRAPHIC ARTS FINISHING COMPANY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM, OPINION AND ORDER

This case is before the court on the motion of defendants Graphic Arts Finishing Company, Inc. ("Graphic Arts"), Mary E. Quinn, as Trustee under The Mary Ellen Quinn Declaration of Trust ("Mary E. Quinn"), and Robert E. Quinn, as Trustee under The Robert E. Quinn Declaration of Trust ("Robert E. Quinn") to grant summary judgment in their favor and against plaintiff Thomas Jones ("Jones") pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion for summary judgment [32] is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Jones' accident occurred on May 3, 2006 at approximately 9:30 a.m. at the Graphic Arts facility located at 1990 N. Mannheim Road in Melrose Park, Illinois. (Defendants' Statement of Uncontested Material Facts ("SOF"), ¶ 27). Jones is currently 65 years old and, at the time of the accident, was employed as a truck driver. (SOF, ¶ 28). Jones had never been to Graphic Arts' facility before the day of the accident, when he was making a delivery to Graphic Arts. (SOF, ¶ 30).

When Jones arrived at the Graphic Arts' facility, he pulled up on a side street, put on his flashers, and walked over to the loading dock to see how much room he would have to pull his trailer into the dock. (SOF, ¶ 32). Jones walked through the center door of the loading dock and looked around but did not see anyone so he went back out to his truck. (SOF, ¶ 36).

Jones got back in his tractor and reversed the trailer into the empty right center bay. (SOF, ¶ 44). Jones stopped approximately 8-10 feet away from the fixed dock plate with the front part of his trailer still outside the bay area. (SOF, ¶46). Jones got out of his cab to walk back to the dock plate to see if he was lined up properly or if he had to make adjustments. (SOF, 47). At that point, Jones' trailer was adjacent to a yellow post in the bay area and the wall of the trailer was approximately 30 inches from the post. (SOF, ¶ 48).

Jones exited his cab, walked around the front of his trailer, and walked down the passenger side of the trailer to the back of the trailer. (SOF, ¶ 51). Once there, he saw how much he needed to back up, and then started to walk up the driver's side to get back into his cab. (SOF, ¶ 51). Jones walked on the driver's side of his truck towards the cab and about one to two feet before reaching the yellow post, Jones turned towards his trailer in order to "squeeze" by the post and his trailer. (SOF, ¶ 56).

Jones stepped into an open drainage pit with his left foot, causing his to lose his balance, pitching him forward and striking the yellow post with his left rib area and hyper-extending his right arm. (SOF, ¶ 57). The drainage system runs east to west from one side of the loading dock to the other side. (SOF, ¶ 13). The metal grates are made up of sections that are approximately 3 feet long by one foot wide and are lined up end to end with a pit underneath that is 9 to 10 inches deep that collects debris such as small pieces of garbage and leaves. (SOF, ¶ 14). Jones did not see the missing grate anywhere in the vicinity and does not know where the missing grate was and never saw it at any point. (SOF, ¶ 59). In addition, Jones has no knowledge as to how long the grate had been missing. (SOF, ¶ 60). The grates on either side of the missing grate were in place in the drainage channel. (SOF, ¶ 61).

Mary E. Quinn and Robert E. Quinn have owned the Graphic Arts building at 1990 N. Mannheim Road since 1987. (SOF, ¶ 7). Mary E. Quinn and Robert E. Quinn lease the building to Graphic Arts pursuant to a lease agreement. (SOF, ¶ 8). Under the lease agreement, Graphic Arts is responsible for repairing and maintaining the property. (SOF, ¶ 9). Mary E. Quinn and Robert E. Quinn do not perform any repairs or maintenance at the building. (SOF, ¶ 10). Mary Pat Quinn-Headley is a co-owner of Graphic Arts and has worked at the facility since 1987. (SOF, ¶ 11).

Bill Lodding ("Lodding") has worked at Graphic Arts for 19 years as the maintenance supervisor and is responsible for all repair and maintenance jobs at the facility. (SOF, ¶ 16). Lodding cleans the drainage channels 2-4 times a year, depending on the amount of leaves and garbage. Although Lodding does not have a set date that he cleans them, he typically cleans them at least once in the spring and once in the fall. (Dep., 25). In addition, although he has no knowledge as to when he cleaned the drainage systems prior to or after May 3, 2006, he agrees that around May 1st of each year is probably when he cleans them. (SOF, ¶ 17; Dep., 26). No one other than Lodding has cleaned the drains or removed the metal grates in the past 19 years. (SOF, ¶ 18). In the 22 years Graphic Arts has been a the facility, no one at Graphic Arts has any knowledge of any missing grates and no one has ever reported seeing any of the grates completely missing. (SOF, ¶ 68).

Based upon the accident described above, Jones has asserted a negligence claim against Mary E. Quinn, Robert E. Quinn, and Graphic Arts. On September 2, 2009, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment for all of Jones' claims. This motion been fully briefed by both parties, and the court has considered all documents submitted in consideration of the defendants' motion. We now turn to that motion.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

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 as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986). The nonmoving party is tasked with presenting specific, competent evidence to rebut the motion for summary judgment. Butts v. Aurora Health Care, Inc., 387 F.3d 921, 924 (7th Cir. 2004). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court construes the evidence ...


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