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Diana Acosta v. Target Corporation

January 10, 2012

DIANA ACOSTA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TARGET CORPORATION, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Diana Acosta sued Target Corporation in the Circuit Court of Cook County, asserting a state law negligence claim. Target removed the suit to federal court. The Court has jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship. Target has moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion.

Background

On August 26, 2009, Acosta and her daughter went shopping at a Target store in Cicero, Illinois. The two entered the store shortly before 9 a.m. After using the restroom, they shopped for about twenty minutes. Acostathen went to the men's clothing department of the store. At the time, she was not carrying any items to purchase. In the men's department, she picked out a jacket for her son. After selecting the jacket, Acosta turned and fell on a tiled floor.

Acosta says that she slipped and that the slip was caused by a light or clear liquid on the floor. The parties agree that there is no evidence regarding why the liquid was on the floor or how long it had been there. Acosta states that there was nothing about the liquid to indicate that it had partially dried or that anyone else had walked through it or slipped in it before her. At her deposition, Acosta did not remember seeing any Target employees in the area at the time of the fall.

After falling, Acosta did not report the accident immediately but continued shopping, eventually picking ten items to buy. She claims that when she made her purchases she mentioned the accident to the cashier and showed the cashier that her clothes were wet. She states that the cashier then wrote down that someone had slipped on a piece of paper. A video of Acosta checking out, however, does not show the cashier writing anything or Acosta pointing out anything on her clothes.

Discussion

On a motion for summary judgment, the Court "view[s] the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Trinity Homes LLC v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 629 F.3d 653, 656 (7th Cir. 2010). Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In other words, a court may grant summary judgment "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

Under Illinois law, "[t]o recover on a negligence claim, the plaintiff must establish the existence of a duty owed by the defendant, a breach of that duty, and an injury proximately resulting from that breach. If the plaintiff cannot establish an element of her cause of action, summary judgment for the defendant is proper." Pavlik v. Wal-Mart Stores, 323 Ill. App. 3d 1060, 1063, 753 N.E.2d 1007, 1010 (2001) (citation omitted); see Reid v. Kohl's Dep't Stores, Inc., 545 F.3d 479, 481 (7th Cir. 2008) (federal court applies Illinois substantive law in a personal injury diversity action). Target does not dispute that it owed Acosta a duty of reasonable care. Rather, it argues that Acosta cannot demonstrate that Target breached that duty and that the breach proximately caused her injury.

Under Illinois law,

[a] business owner breaches it duty to an invitee who slips on a foreign substance if (1) the substance was placed there by the negligence of the proprietor or (2) its servant knew of its presence, or (3) the substance was there a sufficient length of time so that, in the exercise of ordinary care, its presence should have been discovered, i.e. the proprietor had constructive notice of the substance.

Pavlik, 323 Ill. App. 3d at 1063; 753 N.E.2d at 1010 (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). When a plaintiff alleges constructive knowledge, the amount of time that the substance was on the floor is "of critical importance." Reid, 545 F.3d at 481 (internal quotation marks omitted). "Absent any evidence demonstrating the length of time that the substance was on the floor, a plaintiff cannot establish constructive knowledge." Id. at 482.

Acosta admits that there is no evidence showing how the liquid came to be on the floor of the store. Without such evidence, she cannot show that some negligence by a Target employee caused the liquid to be there. Acosta offers no evidence-either direct or inferential-that any Target employee was aware of the liquid on the floor before she fell, and thus no reasonable jury could find that Target had actual notice.

Finally, Acosta admits that she has no evidence indicating how long the liquid was on the floor. Because there is no evidence regarding the length of time the liquid was on the floor, no reasonable ...


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