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Stigleman v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

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

February 11, 2015

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 cause is before the Court on the Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint Naming Additional Parties and to Remand (d/e 17) filed by Plaintiff Diane Stigleman, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Matthew McClain, deceased. Because the relevant factors weigh in favor of permitting the post-removal joinder of a nondiverse party, the Motion is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

In September 2013, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Circuit Court for the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Sangamon County, Springfield, Illinois against Defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. The Complaint alleged negligence and willful and wanton misconduct in Defendant's provision and maintenance of a private drive as a means of ingress and egress to its business invitees. See Compl. (d/e 1-1). Plaintiff alleged that, as a direct and proximate result of Defendant's allegedly defective private drive, McClain was killed on May 24, 2013 when William Davis exited the Wal-Mart store via the private drive and his vehicle collided with McClain's motorcycle on North Dirksen Parkway in Springfield, Illinois.

On October 30, 2013, Defendant filed a Notice of Removal asserting that this Court has jurisdiction over the litigation pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 1332 because the parties are diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See Notice of Removal (d/e 1).

In November 2013, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss on the basis that the Complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Mot. (d/e 4). Defendant argued that Plaintiff's allegations did not give rise to a duty on Defendant's part to operate, control, or manage the intersection of its private drive with North Dirksen Parkway or a duty to ensure the safety of motorists traveling on North Dirksen Parkway. Defendant also claimed it did not owe McClain any duty to protect him from injuries occurring off of Defendant's premises or from injuries resulting from the negligence of a third party.

In April 2014, United States Magistrate Judge Jonathan E. Hawley entered a Report and Recommendation (d/e 12) recommending that the Motion to Dismiss be denied. Defendant filed objections (d/e 13).

In September 2014, this Court rejected the Report and Recommendation, with the exception of the statement of facts in Part I, granted Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, and dismissed the complaint without prejudice and with leave to replead. Opinion (d/e 15). Specifically, this Court found that Plaintiff failed to allege that Defendant owed a duty to McClain because Plaintiff did not allege facts that demonstrated that McClain's injuries were foreseeable to Defendant. Plaintiff did not sufficiently allege that the intersection was unsafe or that Defendant caused a non-natural condition on the land that created an unreasonable risk of harm. Id. at 13. In addition, this Court found the allegations in the Complaint concerning other accidents too conclusory or vague to meet the plausibility threshold. Id. at 16. Finally, this Court found that Plaintiff did not plausibly allege that Defendant had control over the intersection construction, signage, and design. Id. at 16.

On October 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (d/e 16). The Amended Complaint contains additional allegations regarding the allegedly dangerous condition of the intersection and Defendant's control over the intersection. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant designed, constructed, built, and erected the private drive in approximately 2001, when North Dirksen Parkway was a two-lane road. Am. Compl. ¶ 259. In 2005, North Dirksen Parkway was widened to five lanes. Id. ¶ 261. The traffic control device at the intersection remained a stop sign and allowed business invitees exiting Defendant's property via the private road to turn left onto North Dirksen Parkway. Id. ¶ 262, 263.

Plaintiff alleges that, notwithstanding the widening of North Dirksen Parkway, Defendant failed to conduct a traffic safety study, analysis, or investigation concerning the intersection of the private driveway and North Dirksen Parkway from 2005 to the present. Id. ¶ 265. Plaintiff also alleges the many different ways that the intersection is dangerous, unsafe, and defective, including that the intersection presents business invitees "with too large of an area to cover in order to make a successful left hand turn" or to "successfully travel across five lanes of high-speed traffic." Id. ¶ 326(c), (d).

The Amended Complaint further alleges that, between 2005 and May 2013, 18 accidents have occurred at the intersection and all were caused by Defendant's business invitees turning left across multiple lanes of high speed traffic to enter or exit Defendant's property via the private road. Am. Compl. ¶ 266. Plaintiff also identifies 28 other accidents at the intersection but does not indicate the cause of or circumstances involved in those accidents. See Id. ¶¶ 99-221. On information and belief, the Springfield Police Department, Springfield Fire Department, and/or emergency personnel were called to the accident scene for each of those accidents. In one instance, the accident involved an officer, agent, servant, and/or employee of Defendant. Id. ¶ 120. On two occasions, police officers entered Defendant's store and viewed security footage of the collision. Id. ¶¶ 196, 201.

Plaintiff alleges that from 2001 until 2013, Defendant had security cameras mounted on the exterior of the store that recorded the intersection of the private driveway and North Dirksen Parkway 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Id. ¶ 102. After being sued in 2013 for a collision that occurred in 2011 (Mikus v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Sangamon County Case No. 12 L 0079), Defendant altered the position of the camera so that it no longer captures the intersection. Id. ¶ 104.

Plaintiff also alleges that, prior to the accident in this case, Defendant has been sued four times nationwide for connecting private drives to public roadways and then negligently directing its invitees to use the drives to turn left across multiple lanes of high-speed traffic to exit its property. Id. ¶¶ 13-67. One of those lawsuits resulted in the decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, which held that Wal-Mart (Defendant herein) had a duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition and finding that a jury may conclude it was foreseeable that Wal-Mart could expect more accidents to occur at the intersection. Louk v. Isuzu Motors, 479 S.E.2d 911 (W.Va. 1996) (wherein the decedent was in the car exiting the private driveway). Plaintiff alleges that a jury ultimately issued a verdict from Wal-Mart guilty of proximately causing the wrongful death. Am. Compl. ¶ 27. Another of those nationwide lawsuits resulted in a decision by the New Mexico Appellate Court, which held that a question of fact remained whether Wal-Mart (Defendant herein) failed to take reasonable steps to protect its invitees from harm. Luevano v. Wal-Mart, Case No. 19, 146 (wherein the decedent was attempting a left-hand turn from the Wal-Mart driveway onto the highway) (opinion attached to the Amended Complaint as Exhibit B). Plaintiff alleges that a jury in New Mexico issued a verdict finding Wal-Mart guilty of proximately causing the wrongful death of Selena Luevano. Id. ¶ 43.

According to the allegations of the Amended Complaint, the National Cooperative Highway Research Report 659 titled "NCHRP Report 659-Guide for the Geometric Design of Driveways" describes the dangers posed by intersections of public roadways and private property, the considerations that must be made when locating such intersections and determining the proper signage for such intersections, and the potential for increased traffic crashes. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 274-297. Plaintiff alleges Defendant knew about such literature, its findings, conclusions, and recommendations. Id. ¶ 298. Moreover, Plaintiff alleges that Tracy L. Rosser, Vice President of Corporate Traffic for ...


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