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Chambers v. Menard, Inc.

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

June 17, 2015

Gerald Chambers, Plaintiff,
v.
Menard, Inc., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN ROBERT BLAKEY, District Judge.

This case arises from a slip and fall at a Menards parking lot. Plaintiff Gerald Chambers sustained injuries and brought a single negligence claim against Defendant Menard, alleging that he fell on an unnatural accumulation of ice on Defendant's store parking lot. A second Defendant was previously dismissed without opposition from Plaintiff. [38].

Defendant now moves for summary judgment [53] based on the Illinois natural accumulation rule. That motion is granted.

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 (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 (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, here, Plaintiff. See CTL ex rel. Trebatoski v. Ashland School District, 743 F.3d 524, 528 (7th Cir. 2014).

II. Facts[1]

This case arises from a February 25, 2015 slip and fall at a Menards parking lot at 14975 Lincoln Avenue, Dolton, Illinois. DSOF ¶ 7. The relevant facts are not in dispute.

Official weather records taken near the Menards parking lot show that the day before the fall, February 24, 2012, between 0.5 and 0.8 inches of snow fell. DSOF ¶ 23. There was almost no precipitation (0.02 inches, to be exact) the next day, February 25. DSOF ¶ 27; Record of Climatological Observations [55-6]. In light of the minimal snowfall, no snow or ice removal services or salting services were performed at the Menards parking lot either on February 24 or February 25, 2012. DSOF ¶¶ 20-22, 24. Defendant had a snow removal agreement with Royal Oaks Corporation ("Royal Oaks") (a third-party snow removal vendor) to remove snow accumulations greater than 1 inch. DSOF ¶¶ 17-18; Snow Plowing Agreement [59-3] § 1. Defendant's employees themselves were not responsible for snow or ice removal in the parking lot. DSOF ¶ 15.

Plaintiff, at his deposition, described his fall and the condition of the Menards parking lot as follows. On February 25, Plaintiff arrived at the Menards store in Dolton. DSOF ¶ 8. The parking lot was snow-free and dry, but for a single patch of ice near where Plaintiff parked. DSOF ¶¶ 8, 11, 13-14. Plaintiff parked in a handicapped spot near the store entrance at approximately 10:30 a.m. DSOF ¶ 10. Upon exiting his vehicle, Plaintiff slipped and fell. DSOF ¶ 10. While sitting on the ground after falling, Plaintiff observed a thin film of dirt covering a patch of ice. DSOF ¶¶ 11-12.

Defendant infers that this patch of ice was the product of the snowfall on February 24 melting that day and re-freezing either the same day or on February 25, when temperatures dropped below freezing. [54] at 1-2. Official weather records show that on February 24, 2012 the temperature near Dolton, Illinois ranged from a low of 25 degrees Fahrenheit to a high of 35 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than the freezing point (32 degrees Fahrenheit). DSOF ¶ 25. The temperatures were colder the next day: ranging from 25 to 29 degrees Fahrenheit. DSOF ¶ 26.

III. Analysis

Here, the issue at summary judgment is narrow: Did Plaintiff slip on a natural accumulation of ice, such that the Illinois natural accumulation rule applies and bars his claim? This well-settled rule provides that property owners, such as Defendant, have no duty to remove natural accumulations of snow, ice or melted water from their premises. Krywin v. Chicago Transit Authority, 938 N.E.2d 440, 447-50 (Ill. 2010); see also Baez v. Target Corp., No. 13-4258, ___ F.Supp. 3d ___, 2015 WL 753740, at *2-3 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 20, 2015) (collecting cases). The same rule does not apply to unnatural accumulations.

Plaintiff responds in two ways, arguing (1) that there was an unnatural accumulation of ice from a defect in the parking lot and, alternatively, (2) that Defendant undertook a voluntary duty to remove natural accumulations of ...


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