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Charlotte Beaumont v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank

April 5, 2011

CHARLOTTE BEAUMONT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
J.P. MORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Cole

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Charlotte Beaumont fell as she entered the Chase Bank branch in Plainfield, Illinois, on January 29, 2008. She sued the Bank, alleging that it was negligent in failing to provide a safe means of ingress to the Bank, and/or "designed, created, constructed, allowed or permitted a dangerous [condition] to exist in the main entrance by failing to remove water on the surface of the entrance way." (Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 Filing, ¶4). The Bank has moved for summary judgment on the theory that the evidence shows that the cause of Ms. Beaumont's fall was moisture tracked in by the Bank's customers (and Ms. Beaumont), which, under Illinois law, constitutes a "natural accumulation" of water and cannot be the basis for liability. Ms. Beaumont contends that the Bank's "assumption that [the cause of her fall] is tracked in water is speculation unfounded in fact." (Response to Motion for Summary Judgment at 1)("Response"). She offers three "possibilities" to explain the cause of her fall. Jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, and Illinois substantive law therefore controls. Protective Life Insurance. Co. v. Hansen, 632 F.3d 388, 392 (7th Cir. 2011); Fednav Intern. Ltd. v. Continental Insurance. Co., 624 F.3d 834, 838 (7th Cir. 2010). The parties have consented to proceed before a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636 (c)(1).

I. BACKGROUND

A. Summary Judgment Procedures Under Local Rule 56.1

As always, the facts underlying this summary judgment proceeding are drawn from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 submissions. Local Rule 56.1 requires a party seeking summary judgment to include with its motion "a statement of material facts as to which the ... party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the ... party to a judgment as a matter of law." Local Rule 56.1(a)(3); Ciomber v. Cooperative Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643 (7th Cir. 2008). Each paragraph must refer to the "affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials" that substantiate the asserted facts. Local Rule 56.1(a)(3); F.T.C. v. Bay Area Business Council, Inc., 423 F.3d 627, 633 (7th Cir. 2005). The party opposing summary judgment must then respond to the movant's statement of proposed material facts; that response must contain both "a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement," Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B), and a separate statement "consisting of short numbered paragraphs, of any additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment." Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C); Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 643. Again, each response, and each asserted fact, must be supported with a reference to the record. Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B); Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009); Bay Area Business Council, Inc., 423 F.3d at 633.

If the moving party fails to comply with the rule, the motion can be denied without further consideration. Local Rule 56.1(a)(3); Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 682 n.1 (7th Cir. 2003). If the responding parting fails to comply, its additional facts may be ignored, and the properly supported facts asserted in the moving party's submission are deemed admitted. Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C); Montano v. City of Chicago, 535 F.3d 558, 569 (7th Cir. 2008); Cracco, 559 F.3d at 632; Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1061 (7th Cir. 2006). District courts are "'entitled to expect strict compliance'" with Rule 56.1 and do not abuse their discretion when they opt to disregard facts presented in a manner that does follow the rule's instructions. Cracco, 559 F.3d at 632; Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 643; Ammons v. Aramark Unif. Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004). The court is not required to hunt for evidence in the record that supports a party's case if a party fails to point it out; that is the job of counsel. See Bay Area Business Council, 423 F.3d at 633 (court properly disregarded affidavits not referenced in the Rule 56.1 submission).

B. Facts

At her deposition, Ms. Beaumont testified that on the day of her fall, which occurred within 25 minutes of the Bank's 9:00 a.m. opening, the sidewalk outside the entrance of the Bank was wet, but there were no puddles or accumulations of water. ( Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 Filing ("Pl.Rsp")at 9; Plaintiff's Rule 56.1 Statement ("Pl.St."), ¶9). Ms. Beaumont "saw the sidewalk was wet...." (Pl.St., ¶6; Response at 6). She does not know of any other source of water or moisture that could have made the tile floor where she fell slippery except the wet sidewalk leading to the Bank. (Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 Statement ("Def.St."), ¶¶ 9, 22, 23; Pl.Rsp, ¶¶ 9, 22, 23). "Other people entering the...Bank would have walked on the same wet sidewalk." (Def.St., ¶10; Pl.Rsp., ¶10). She estimated that she saw six to ten people already inside the Bank. (Def.St. ¶ 18; Pl.Rsp., ¶ 18). She did not see any water on the floor of the entryway as she went in; nor was there any debris. (Def.St. ¶ 12;Pl.Rsp., ¶ 12). Inside the entryway, there was a mat, but it did not go all the way to the door that led from the outside of the Bank into the vestibule leading to the interior door; there was a space of about three feet of bare tile between the mat and the doorway. (Def.St. ¶ 13; Pl.Rsp., ¶ 13). Ms. Beaumont never looked down at that area of bare floor or down at her feet as she entered the Bank. (Pl. Rsp. ¶¶ 13-14).

Plaintiff opened the door, took two steps inside and then fell on the portion of the floor that was not covered by the mat. (Def.St. ¶ 15 -16; Pl.Rsp., ¶ 15 -16). As she lost her footing, her body pivoted and she landed on her left elbow and shoulder. (Plaintiff's Dep., at 43-44). When asked what caused her fall, she said she "believe[d] that if the mat had been down [all the way to the door] [she] would not have fallen." (Plaintiff's Dep., at 47). The tile in front of the mat was wet, but there were no puddles. (Plaintiff's Dep., at 47-49). Her coat got damp -- "a little bit moist" -- from her fall. (Plaintiff's Dep., at 48).

Branch manager, Alexis Espino, "remembers the weather being somewhat clear" the morning of the accident. (Pl.St., ¶1); (Response at 2). Phillip Boch recalled that there was no snow or ice present on the day of the incident, and that there was no extreme weather. He did not recall whether it was raining that morning, but was certain there was no water on the floor when he inspected it after Ms. Beaumont's fall. (Pl.St., ¶ 2).*fn1

Personal banker, Larry Summers, testified that it was a pretty clear and cool day and he did not see any water, snow or ice on the vestibule floor after the plaintiff's fall. (Pl.St., ¶ 3). None of the Bank employees said anything about the sidewalk. That is, they neither confirmed nor refuted Ms. Beaumont's statements regarding the sidewalk having been wet and that the only source of moisture of which she was aware would have come from the wet sidewalk. (Def.St., ¶22-23; Pl.Rsp. ¶¶22-23; Response at 6-7). The Bank's customers who were already in the Bank had also walked on the wet sidewalk. (Pl.Rsp., ¶10).*fn2

II. ...


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