United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
PATRICK E. WILLIAMS Plaintiff,
ARIES CHARTER TRANSPORTATION, INC., an Illinois Corporation, and ERICKA J. FULTON, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JOHNSON COLEMAN United States District Court Judge.
Patrick E. Williams, brought this action alleging negligence
against Aries Charter Transportation Inc.
(“Aries”) and negligent entrustment and
negligence of agent against Ericka J. Fulton. Aries now moves
for summary judgment on the plaintiff's negligence claim.
For the reasons set forth below, that motion  is granted.
following facts are undisputed. Williams' sister, Pamela
Wallace, was getting married. (Dkt. 45 ¶ 2). As a
wedding present, Wallace's employer, Aries, agreed to
provide a “party bus” for her family members on
the night of the wedding. (Id. ¶ 7). The bus
was driven by John Young, an Aries employee. (Id.).
Young transported the bridal party and family members from
the church where the wedding ceremony took place to the
wedding reception, which was located at the Little Black
Pearl. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 8). The entrance to the
Little Black Pearl is on the west side of Greenwood Avenue
north of 47th street. (Id. ¶ 2). When Young
dropped off the wedding party, he was able to park on the
west side of Greenwood Avenue, where he remained for several
hours. (Id. ¶ 8). At some point in the evening,
however, Young had to drive several wedding guests back to
the church to retrieve their cars. (Id. ¶ 9).
When Young returned to the Little Black Pearl, he parked on
the East side of Greenwood Avenue, across from the entrance
to the Little Black Pearl. (Id. ¶ 10). As the
evening began to close, plaintiff and several others began
moving leftover refreshments and other items from the Little
Black Pearl to the bus. (Id. ¶ 13). In doing
so, the plaintiff and others crossed the street mid-block
rather than walking down the street and using the crosswalk.
(Dkt. 47 ¶ 7). At that time, the bus was running and its
headlights and hazard lights were on. (Id. ¶
9). As Williams was crossing the street mid-block, a vehicle
traveling down 47th Street ran the stop sign at the
intersection of Greenwood Avenue and 47th street and made a
left hand turn onto Greenwood Avenue, striking Williams.
(Dkt. 45 ¶¶ 19-22). The vehicle stopped briefly
before speeding away. (Id. ¶ 24). The vehicle
in question was allegedly owned by Ericka J. Fulton, but was
driven by an unknown male driver.
judgment is proper when “the pleadings, the discovery
and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show
that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and
that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d
265 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists, this Court must view the evidence and
draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing
the motion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
However, “[m]erely alleging a factual dispute cannot
defeat the summary judgment motion.” Samuels v.
Wilder, 871 F.2d 1346, 1349 (7th Cir. 1989). “The
mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the
[non-movant's] position will be insufficient; there must
be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the
[non-movant].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.
order to prove a claim of negligence under Illinois law, a
plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed him a duty,
that the defendant breached this duty, and that he suffered
an injury that was proximately caused by the defendant's
breach. Lewis v. CITGO Petroleum Corp., 561 F.3d
698, 702 (7th Cir. 2009). Proximate cause encompasses both
cause in fact and legal cause. Blood v. VH-1 Music
First, 668 F.3d 543, 546 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Lee
v. Chi. Transit Auth., 605 N.E.2d 493, 502, 152 Ill.2d
432 (1992)). To establish cause in fact, the plaintiff must
show that the defendant's conduct was a material element
and a substantial factor in bringing about the injury.
Id. Legal cause, on the other hand, turns on
“whether the injury is of a type that a reasonable
person would see as a likely result of his or her
conduct.” Id. (quoting First Springfield
Bank & Trust v. Galman, 720 N.E.2d 1068, 1073, 188
Ill.2d 252 (1999)). A defendant's negligence thus does
not constitute the proximate cause of a plaintiff's
injuries if an intervening act supersedes the defendant's
negligence, unless the defendant could have reasonably
foreseen that intervening act. Bentley v. Saunemin
Tp., 413 N.E.2d 1242, 1245, 83 Ill.2d 10 (Ill. 1980).
Proximate cause is a question for the trier of fact, but can
be found as a matter of law when the undisputed facts are
such that there can be no reasonable disagreement over the
inferences to be drawn from them. Blood, 668 F.3d at
546 (quoting Merlo v. Pub. Serv. Co. of N. Ill., 45
N.E.2d 665, 675, 381 Ill. 300 (1942)).
the general rule in Illinois that a person has no duty to
anticipate the criminal acts of third parties. Jackson v.
Shell Oil Co., 650 N.E.2d 652, 655, 272 Ill.App.3d 542
(1995). An exception to this rule exists if the criminal act
might reasonably have been foreseen at the time of the
negligence. Id.; see also Ney v. Yellow Cab
Co., 117 N.E.2d 74, 78, 2 Ill.2d 74 (1954) (recognizing
that the theft of a vehicle was a foreseeable result of
leaving the keys in the ignition).
the undisputed facts clearly establish that proximate cause
did not exist. Although Williams' crossed the street
outside the crosswalk as a result of Young's parking on
the wrong side of the street, the facts clearly establish
that the location of the bus did not proximately cause the
injury. See Thompson v. County of Cook, 609 N.E.2d
290, 294154 Ill.2d 374 (1993) (quoting Briske v. Village
of Burnham, 39 N.E.2d 976, 979, 379 Ill. 193 (1942))
(internal quotation marks omitted) (“[T]he cause of an
injury is that which actually produces it, while the occasion
is that which provides an opportunity for causal agencies to
act. If a defendant's negligence does nothing more than
furnish the condition by which the injury is made possible,
that negligence is not the proximate cause of the
injury.”). Williams, moreover, has failed to identify
any evidence establishing that Young had specific reason to
foresee the criminal conduct of the driver. Although
Williams' asserts that speeding and failing to obey a
stop sign are “ordinary incidents of human life”
which should be anticipated, he has offered, and this Court
is aware of, no authority so holding. Accordingly, the
undisputed facts do not establish the existence of proximate
Court is not persuaded otherwise by Williams' arguments
premised on Aries' liability as a common carrier.
Although Williams asserts that Aries is a common carrier in
his statement of facts, the sole evidence offered to support
this conclusion is a conclusory, unsupported statement in a
witness declaration. Such a statement is insufficient to
establish a dispute of material fact as to whether Aries is a
common carrier. Edward E. Gillen Co., v. City of Lake
Forest, 3 F.3d 192, 196 (7th Cir. 1993); cf. Long v.
Illinois Power Co., 543 N.E.2d 525, 535, 187 Ill.App.3d
614 (1989) (recognizing that the determination of whether an
entity is acting as a common carrier must take into account
the nature of the service being performed in the particular
instance in question).
Aries is assumed to be a common carrier, the cases that
Williams relies on to establish Aries' liability as a
common carrier specifically concern the duty to provide a
safe place to alight. See, e.g., Borus v. Yellow Cab.
Co., 367 N.E.2d 277, 281, 52 Ill.App.3d 194 (1977).
Williams points to, and this Court is aware of, no law
holding common carriers to be responsible for the safety of
their passengers once they have safely alighted. But see
Id. (recognizing that a common carriers' duty of
care terminates once the passenger, in reasonable exercise of
ordinary care for his own wellbeing, has had a reasonable
opportunity to reach a place of safety). Williams submits no
facts to suggest that he was unable to safely alight from the
bus, and therefore has not created a dispute of material fact
concerning the applicability of common carrier liability.
foregoing reasons, the defendants' motion for summary