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Baez v. Target Corp.

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

February 20, 2015

Marilyn Baez, Plaintiff,
v.
Target Corporation, Defendant

Page 863

For Marilyn Baez, Plaintiff: Kevin John Mcnamara, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kevin J. Mcnamara Law Offices, P.c., Chicago, IL.

For Target Corporation, Defendant: Eileen Marie Letts, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kenya A. Jenkins Wright, Zachary D Budden, Greene & Letts, Chicago, IL.

Page 864

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

John Robert Blakey, United States District Judge.

This cases arises from a fall at a Target parking lot. Plaintiff Marilyn Baez sustained injuries from the fall and has brought a single-count complaint [2-1] against Defendant Target Corporation based on its purported negligence.

Defendant has moved for summary judgment [35]. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

I. Legal Standard

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. Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc., 739 F.3d 1055, 1060 (7th Cir. 2014). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if " the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, this Court must construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See CTL ex rel. Trebatoski v. Ashland School District, 743 F.3d 524, 528 (7th Cir. 2014).

II. Background

The following facts are taken from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements and the exhibits attached thereto.[1]

Plaintiff is a diabetic who has been prescribed custom-molded shoes for that condition. Def.'s Statement of Facts (" DSOF" ) [35] ¶ 5. She also walks with a limp as a result of injuries sustained during a January 2010 motor vehicle incident. DSOF [35] ¶ 7.

On June 20, 2011, Plaintiff and her fiancé drove to a Target store (#T942) in Chicago to shop. DSOF [35] ¶ ¶ 8, 10. They arrived around 2:53 p.m. and parked in a handicapped parking space. DSOF [35] ¶ 11; Surveillance Video [35-7] at 2:53 p.m. It had been raining earlier that day (although it is disputed when the raining stopped); and Plaintiff testified that there were puddles around the car when she exited it. DSOF [35] ¶ ¶ 10-11; [43] at 11. Plaintiff was wearing new sandals and not her prescribed shoes. DSOF [35] ¶ 12.

Plaintiff secretly purchased a gift for her fiancé from Target. DSOF [35] ¶ 13.

Page 865

She left the store unaccompanied to return to the car. DSOF [35] ¶ 13. Plaintiff again saw the puddle on the passenger side of the car and, to avoid the water, sought to access the car from the driver's side. DSOF [35] ¶ 14. To do that, Plaintiff traversed the parking lot island adjacent to the car. DSOF [35] ¶ ¶ 14, 24. The parking lot island was landscaped with mulch and had a cement pedestrian walkway down its center. DSOF [35] ¶ ¶ 14-15. There was no water on the walkway but the mulch was wet from the rain that fell earlier that day. DSOF [35] ¶ 14.

Plaintiff chose to walk across the mulch and not the walkway. DSOF [35] ¶ 15. Plaintiff explained that there was water blocking the entrance to the walkway. Baez Dep. Tr. [35-1] at 117:14-119:6. At approximately 3:10 p.m., Plaintiff fell as she stepped onto the curb to open the driver's side door. DSOF [35] ¶ 16; Surveillance Video [35-7] at 3:10 p.m.

Target employees responded to the fall. DSOF [35] ¶ 26; Pl.'s Statement of Additional Facts (" PSOAF" ) [39] ¶ 1. Two of them also prepared Team Member Witness Statements. PSOAF [39] ¶ ¶ 1-2. One (Jorge Anaya)--who recorded that he was " the first team member to respond" --wrote that there was " water surrounding the island where the incident happened." PSOAF [39] ¶ 1; Anaya Team Member Witness Statement [39 - 1]. The other (Miguel Rivera) wrote that there was " a huge puddle of water by [Plaintiff's] vehicle and also around the parking lot island." PSOAF [39] ¶ 2; Rivera Team Member Witness Statement [39-1].

Plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of the fall and was taken to the hospital. DSOF [35] ¶ ¶ 16, 21. As a result of these injuries, Plaintiff ultimately had one of her legs amputated. Baez Dep. Tr. [35-1] at 179:9-23; see Joint Reassignment Status Report [42] § I.B.

III. Analysis

To establish negligence, Plaintiff must show (a) that Defendant owed Plaintiff a duty of care; (b) that Defendant breached that duty of care; and (c) that the alleged breach proximately caused Plaintiff's injuries. Hornacek v. 5th Avenue Property Management, 2011 IL App. (1st) 103502, ¶ 32, 959 N.E.2d 173, 355 Ill.Dec. 145; Newsom-Bogan v. Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers of New York, Inc., 2011 IL App. (1st) 092860, ¶ 14, 953 N.E.2d 427, 352 Ill.Dec. 188; Reed v. Galaxy Holdings, Inc., 394 Ill.App.3d 39, 42, 914 N.E.2d 632, 333 Ill.Dec. 213 (1st Dist. 2009). To recover in a slip-and-fall case involving ice, snow or water, Plaintiff also must show " that the accumulation of ice, snow or water is due to unnatural causes and that the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge ...


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