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Stigleman v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

September 30, 2014

DIANE STIGLEMAN, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Matthew McClain, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., Defendant.

OPINION

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Report and Recommendation (d/e 12) entered by United States Magistrate Judge Jonathan E. Hawley on April 30, 2014. Defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. ("Wal-Mart") timely filed its Objection to the Report and Recommendation (d/e 13) on May 12, 2014. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).

Judge Hawley recommended denying Wal-Mart's Motion to Dismiss (d/e 4). For the reasons that follow, this Court rejects the Report and Recommendation and GRANTS Wal-Mart's Motion to Dismiss.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW This Court reviews de novo any part of the Report and Recommendation to which a proper objection has been made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). This Court reviews findings of the Report and Recommendation to which no objection has been made for clear error. Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp. , 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999). Upon review of the Report and Recommendation, this Court may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).

II. BACKGROUND

The parties are familiar with the specific allegations of each count contained in the Complaint, and this information is fully set out in Part I of the Report and Recommendation, which this Court adopts. To summarize, Plaintiff Diane Stigleman, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Matthew McClain, filed a two-count complaint against Wal-Mart alleging negligence and willful and wanton misconduct in Wal-Mart's provision and maintenance of a private driveway called Sam's Place as a means of ingress and egress to its business invitees at the Wal-Mart store at 2760 North Dirksen Parkway in Springfield, Illinois. Stigleman alleges that, as a direct and proximate result of Wal-Mart's allegedly defective driveway, McClain was killed on May 24, 2013, when William Davis exited the Wal-Mart store via Sam's Place and his vehicle collided with McClain's motorcycle on North Dirksen Parkway.

A. In September 2013, Stigleman Filed a Complaint

In September 2013, Stigleman filed a complaint in Sangamon County Circuit Court. Wal-Mart removed the action to federal court. In December 2013, this Court denied Stigleman's Motion to Remand. (See December 2, 2013, Text Order.)

The complaint alleges that McClain's death was the direct and proximate result of Wal-Mart's negligence. In Count I, Stigleman alleges that Wal-Mart negligently breached its duty of care to McClain by failing to provide a safe means of ingress and egress to business invitees; by failing to restrict business invitees using Wal-Mart's Sam's Place driveway to making only right turns from Sam's Place onto North Dirksen Parkway; by failing to monitor, evaluate, or test the safety or adequacy of the intersection of Sam's Place and Dirksen Parkway in light of changed traffic conditions, roadway conditions, or the high number of accidents that occurred after the opening of the Wal-Mart store; and by failing to provide proper traffic direction and control to motorists exiting Sam's Place to travel onto North Dirksen Parkway. (See Am. Notice Removal, d/e 8, ex. 1, pp. 6-7, ¶ 31.) According to Stigleman, the theories of liability in Count I sound in negligence, premises liability, and nuisance. (See Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n Mot. Dismiss, d/e 9, p. 6.) In Count II, Stigleman alleges that Wal-Mart's actions constituted willful and wanton misconduct when Wal-Mart failed to restrict its business invitees using Sam's Place to making only right turns from Sam's Place onto North Dirksen Parkway and when Wal-Mart allowed a dangerous or defective condition to exist on its property which endangered McClain's safety. (See Am. Notice Removal, d/e 8, ex. 1, pp. 10-11, ¶ 42.)

B. In November 2013, Wal-Mart Filed a Motion to Dismiss

Wal-Mart filed the present motion to dismiss in November 2013. Wal-Mart seeks to dismiss Count I on the ground that Stigleman's allegations do not give rise to a duty on Wal-Mart's part to operate, control, or manage the intersection of its private drive Sam's Place with North Dirksen Parkway, nor to any duty to ensure the safety of motorists traveling on North Dirksen Parkway, a public road. (See Mot. Dismiss, d/e 4, pp. 2-3, ¶ 8.) Moreover, Wal-Mart asserts that it did not owe McClain any duty to protect him from injuries occurring off of its premises, nor from the injuries resulting from the third-party negligence of motorist William Davis. ( Id., p. 5, ¶¶ 14, 15.) Wal-Mart seeks to dismiss Count II on substantially the same ground, that the complaint fails to state a claim because Wal-Mart owed McClain no duty of care. ( Id., p. 7, ¶ 17.) Wal-Mart further asserts that Count II adds nothing to the allegations in Count I beyond the conclusory phrase "willfully and wantonly." ( Id., p. 7, ¶ 19.)

C. Judge Hawley Recommended Denying the Motion to Dismiss, and Wal-Mart Filed Objections to the Report and Recommendation

Judge Hawley recommended denying Wal-Mart's Motion to Dismiss Count I because Stigleman's complaint has sufficiently alleged facts giving rise to a duty that Wal-Mart owed McClain. Judge Hawley recommended denying the Motion to Dismiss Count II for the same reason, adding that, as a matter of law, the same actions may establish liability for either negligence or willful and ...


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