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Henry v. Best Buy Co., Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 29, 2015


For Margaret Henry, Plaintiff: Willard L. Hemsworth, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, Rathbun Cservenyak & Kozol, LLC, Joliet, IL; Frank Stephan Cservenyak, Jr, Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol, Joliet, IL; Michael J. Lichner, Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol, Llc, Joliet, IL.

For Ryan Companies US, Inc., BEST BUY STORES LLP, Defendants: William Scott Trench, LEAD ATTORNEY, Brady, Connolly & Masuda, P.C., Chicago, IL.


Hon. CHARLES RONALD NORGLE, United States District Judge.

In this diversity jurisdiction action, Plaintiff Margaret Henry (" Plaintiff") sues Defendants Best Buy Co., Inc. (" Best Buy") and Ryan Companies U.S. Inc. (" Ryan Companies") (collectively " Defendants") for negligence related to her fall at Best Buy's store in Tinley Park, Illinois. Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.


On the evening of July 1, 2011, Plaintiff was shopping at Best Buy for a new television with her husband Omer Henry (" Omer") and son Thomas Henry (" Thomas") when she tripped and fell to the floor, injuring her wrists and chin. At the time of her fall, she was eighty-one years of age. Ryan Companies owns the building in which Plaintiff fell, and Best Buy leases the premises and operates the retail store.

While in the store, Plaintiff used a credit card to purchase a television at a payment counter in the home theater department. After her credit card was swiped, Plaintiff had to walk around the counter to finish the transaction on the electronic panel. Plaintiff states: " '[W]hen I got partway around, I tripped on something on the floor with my toe, and it threw me forward into the shelves.'" Defs.' Local R. 56.1(a)(3) Statement of Material Facts in Support of Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ 21. Plaintiff, Omer[2] Thomas, and Best Buy employee Timothy Conrath (" Conrath") were present at the payment counter when Plaintiff fell. Plaintiff was immediately transported to the hospital in an ambulance and treated for her injury. Her husband and son finished the transaction and Plaintiff spent the night in the hospital.

Recalling how she fell, Plaintiff said, '" I stubbed -- I stubbed my toe in the carpet. That's all I can remember. I knew I stubbed my toe, and it threw me forward.'" Id. at ¶ 24. However, Plaintiff does not know what caused her to fall. She does not remember having any problem seeing where she was walking, she does not remember any problems with the carpet, and she remembers the floor being flat. Because she was so quickly taken to the hospital, she did not have a chance to examine the area very closely. She was never told what she tripped on.

Plaintiff's son, Thomas, was standing nearby when she fell but he did not see exactly how it happened either. Thomas said that the best he could do was speculate that his mom tripped on a building support column, which he guessed was one and a half feet from the payment counter. When asked, '" Do you know what caused your mom to fall'" at the deposition, he responded, " 'Speculation, I could say she caught her foot on the pole.'" Id. at 52. But Thomas " 'didn't see it'" happen. Id. He speculated that the pole was the cause, " 'Because there was no mats or nothing...There was no mats, plastic mats or anything like that [in the area]. It was just carpet.'" Id. Also, Thomas admits that his theory is contrary to what Plaintiff told him; Plaintiff said " '[s]he thought she caught her foot on the carpeting.'" Id. at 54.

Conrath did not see what caused Plaintiff to trip either, but he thought it was possible that Plaintiff tripped over the nearby shopping cart that held her soon-to-be-purchased television. Recalling the incident, Conrath stated, " 'the shopping cart [was] behind me, behind even with the drawers...After she tripped the shopping cart was moved forward from that position.'" Id. at 40. Conrath noticed that Omer was standing by the shopping cart at the time of Plaintiff's fall, which he had been leaning on from the time he entered the store. However, Conrath reiterated that he did not see Plaintiff's feet when she fell; he assumed that she tripped on the shopping cart because there was nothing on the floor where she fell except " bare carpeting." Id. at 44.

On March 14, 2013, Plaintiff initiated the instant action in state court, alleging negligence against Defendants. Defendants removed the action to this Court on April 17, 2014, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. On May 30, 2014, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion is fully briefed and before the Court.


A. Standard of Decision

" Summary judgment is appropriate when '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.'" Northfield Ins. Co. v. City of Waukegan, 701 F.3d 1124, 1128 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). " A genuine issue of material fact exists when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Wells v. Coker, 707 F.3d 756, 760 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The Court views the evidence and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. The Court does not " assess the credibility of witnesses, choose ...

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