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Belot v. LTF Club Operations Co., Inc.

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

August 30, 2016

GARY BELOT and ILONA BELOT, Plaintiffs,
v.
LTF CLUB OPERATIONS COMPANY, INC., and LIFETIME FITNESS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          HON. RONALD A. GUZMÁN United States District Judge

         The Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment [33]. Civil case terminated.

         STATEMENT

         This case concerns claims of premises liability and loss of consortium related to plaintiff Gary Belot's (“Plaintiff”)[1] trip and fall at Lifetime Fitness, a gym owned and operated by LTF Club Operations Company, Inc. (collectively “Defendants”).

         FACTS

         During the summer of 2013, Plaintiff received a guest pass to Lifetime Fitness in the mail. (Defs.' Facts [Dkt. # 35] ¶ 12.) The pass came with certain restrictions, however: by its plain terms (written on the back of the pass), it required guests to present a photo ID and take a “Center Tour with [a] Member Engagement Advisor” before gaining access to the gym. (See Id. ¶ 14, Ex. D.)[2] Nonetheless, on July 25, 2013, Plaintiff took it upon himself to enter the gym and explore on his own. (Id. ¶ 18.) Although there was no one at the front desk when he first entered, Plaintiff waited there only three minutes, after which he went to the locker room, without presenting a photo ID or taking a tour with a membership consultant, and indeed without even notifying any gym employee of his presence. (Id.; Pl.'s Dep. [Dkt # 35, Ex. C] 50:19-51:2.)[3]Shortly thereafter, while trying to get on an elliptical machine, he tripped and fell over a set of electrical cords and conduits that were on the floor, (Pl.'s Resp. Defs.' Facts [Dkt. # 36] at ¶¶ 9-10), which he claims to have caused permanent injuries, (Compl. [Dkt. # 1-1] at 3). Defendants now move for summary judgment on both of Plaintiff's claims: negligence/premises liability (Count I) and loss of consortium (Count II).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the admissible evidence shows that no genuine dispute exists as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “A ‘material fact' is one identified by the substantive law as affecting the outcome of the suit.” Bunn v. Khoury Enters., Inc., 753 F.3d 676, 681 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). “A ‘genuine issue' exists with respect to any such material fact, and summary judgment is therefore inappropriate, when ‘the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Bunn, 753 F.3d at 681-82 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Conversely, “where the factual record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is nothing for a jury to do.” Id. at 682 (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (emphasis in original)). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court construes the evidence and all inferences that reasonably can be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Count I - Negligence/Premises Liability

         To succeed on a claim for negligence in Illinois, “the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the defendant's breach was the proximate cause of injury to the plaintiff.” Am Nat'l Bank & Trust Co. of Chi. v. Nat'l Adver. Co., 594 N.E.2d 313, 318 (Ill. 1992). In that respect, Defendants argue that there was either no breach, since the cord and conduit were open and obvious, or that there was no duty of reasonable care, given that Plaintiff was a trespasser. Because the Court finds that Plaintiff was indeed a trespasser when he fell, it will confine its discussion to that issue only.

         (A) Plaintiff's Status as a Trespasser

         Under Illinois law, the duty a landowner owes to a person on the land depends upon that person's status, such as invitee or trespasser.[4] Rhodes v. Ill. Cent. Gulf R.R., 665 N.E.2d 1260, 1268 (Ill. 1996). This is a question of law where, as here, the pertinent facts are not disputed. Basham v. Hunt, 773 N.E.2d 1213, 1224 (Ill.App.Ct. 2002). “A person is an invitee if (1) he enters the premises of another by express or implied invitation; (2) his entry is connected with the owner's business or with an activity the owner conducts or permits to be conducted on his land; and (3) there is a mutuality of benefit or a benefit to the owner.” Blakely v. Camp Ondessonk, 38 F.3d 325, 327-28 (7th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). “A trespasser is a person who enters the premises without permission, invitation or other right, and intrudes for some purpose of his own, or at his convenience, or merely as an idler.” Id. (citation omitted). Importantly, a person's status is determined at the time of injury, not entry. Roland, 945 F.2d at 959. (citation omitted).

         At first blush, Plaintiff was arguably an invitee when he entered the gym: he received a guest pass in the mail, which was an express invitation, and the purpose of that invitation was ultimately to enroll him as a gym member, which is directly related to Defendants' business. But invitees may nonetheless lose their status and become trespassers when, after being invited onto the premises, they go to an area beyond the scope of an invitation or otherwise deviate from conditions of that invitation. See Cockrell v. Koppers Indus., Inc.,667 N.E.2d 676, 680 (Ill.App.Ct. 1996); Rodriguez v. Norfolk & W. Ry. Co., 593 N.E.2d 597, 611 (Ill.App.Ct. 1992); see also Orthmann v. Apple River Campground, Inc., 757 F.2d 909, 912 (7th Cir. 1985) (“[T]he mere fact that you invite people onto your property for a fee does not make them business ...


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