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Thompson v. Menard, Inc.

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

September 20, 2017

PRISCILLA THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MENARD, INC., d/b/a MENARDS, a Wisconsin Corporation, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN Z. LEE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Priscilla Thompson (“Thompson”) has sued Defendant Menard, Inc., d/b/a Menards (“Menard”), alleging claims for negligence based on injuries she suffered as a result of falling on the sidewalk outside a Menards store in Rockford, Illinois. Menard has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, Menard's motion for summary judgment is denied.

         Local Rule 56.1

         In the Northern District of Illinois, motions for summary judgment are governed by Local Rule 56.1. “The obligation set forth in Local Rule 56.1 ‘is not a mere formality.' Rather, ‘[i]t follows from the obligation imposed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) on the party opposing summary judgment to identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue for trial.'” Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 924 (7th Cir. 1994)). The Seventh Circuit has “routinely held that a district court may strictly enforce compliance with its local rules regarding summary judgment motions.” Yancick v. Hanna Steel Corp., 653 F.3d 532, 537 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires the party moving for summary judgment to provide “a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law.” Local Rule (“LR”) 56.1(a)(3). The nonmovant must then file “a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement.” LR 56.1(b)(3)(B). Additionally, the nonmovant must present a separate “statement, consisting of short numbered paragraphs, of any additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment, ” to which the movant must also respond. SeeLR 56.1(b)(3)(C). “When a responding party's statement fails to dispute the facts set forth in the moving party's statement in the manner dictated by [Local Rule 56.1], those facts are deemed admitted for purposes of the [summary judgment] motion.” Cracco v. Vitran Express, Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009); accordLR 56.1(b)(3)(C).

         Here, Menard filed a statement of facts pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(a)(3), and Thompson filed a statement of additional facts pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C). Each party, however, failed to file a response to the other party's statement of facts in the manner set forth under the local rule. This defeats the purpose of the rule, which is “designed to facilitate the resolution of Rule 56 motions by calling for evidentiary statements and responses to such statements . . . highlighting the existence or nonexistence of factual disputes.” Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v. Lehman, No. 99 C 4304, 2001 WL 138922, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 16, 2001). Nevertheless, because the facts in this case are not particularly complex, the Court has reviewed the parties' filings to determine the points of genuine material dispute and will proceed to the merits of Menard's summary judgment motion. See Id. (proceeding to merits of summary judgment motion even though both sides failed to comply with Local Rule 56.1); see also U.S. E.E.O.C. v. Cont'l Airlines, Inc., No. 04 C 3055, 2006 WL 14510, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 3, 2006) (“We have broad discretion to mandate strict compliance with Rule 56.1, but, since both parties made errors, we will simply admonish them to [ ] conform their pleadings to the rule in the future, and we will do our best to work with what we have been given.”) (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted)).

         Factual Background

         The following facts are not in material dispute except where otherwise noted. Thompson is a citizen of Illinois. Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 2, ECF No. 14. Menard is a Wisconsin corporation with its primary place of business in Wisconsin. See id.[1] Menard owns and operates a retail hardware store at 2001 S. Perryville Road in Rockford, Illinois. See Id. ¶¶ 3-4. Approximately 200 feet of sidewalk line the perimeter of the store. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 3, ECF No. 17. This sidewalk connects the store's main entryway to the far north side of the store's parking lot. Id. ¶ 11.

         On June 1, 2014, Thompson visited the Menards store in Rockford to purchase lumber. Id. ¶ 4. After paying for her lumber and picking up her receipt, Thompson exited the store through the main entryway. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. She proceeded to walk along the sidewalk lining the edge of the store, heading toward her car in the parking lot. Id. ¶ 6. After walking approximately 100 feet, she tripped over an uneven portion of the sidewalk. See Id. ¶ 7; Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) ¶¶ 6-7. As a result of her fall, she sustained “a complex wrist fracture and deep facial lacerations.” Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 7. Prior to this accident, no person had fallen on or been injured by the portion of the sidewalk where Thompson fell. Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 11-12.

         Thompson returned to the store eleven days after the accident, on June 12, 2014, to photograph and inspect the portion of the sidewalk where she had tripped. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 18. She measured a one-inch gap between two adjacent sidewalk slabs in the location where she fell. Id. Over two years later, in July 2016, Menard took its own photographs and measurements of the same deviation between the two sidewalk slabs. Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 8. At this time, Menard, too, measured the gap to be approximately one inch. Id. According to Roy Hanna, one of the store's managers at the time of Thompson's fall, no repairs or changes to the sidewalk or surrounding area had been made in the interim. See Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 20, 50.

         Hanna gave conflicting testimony as to the amount of pedestrian traffic that is typical for the sidewalk where Thompson fell. On the one hand, he testified that the sidewalk is not a “high traffic area.” Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 10 (citing Hanna Dep. at 21, 44-45). On the other hand, he also testified that he saw customers using this sidewalk “frequently, ” either to go between the main entryway to their cars in the parking lot or to go from the main entryway to a “garden area” on the north side of the store. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 37-38 (citing Hanna Dep. at 20-21).

         Finally, Hanna testified that Menard had policies and procedures for inspection of the premises. Id. ¶ 25. Hanna was not trained on these policies, but the store's assistant managers were. Id. ¶ 28. Hanna testified that he believed that inspections of the exterior of the premises were conducted once each month to identify dangerous conditions on the property. Id. ¶¶ 29-31.

         Legal Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see alsoShell v. Smith, 789 F.3d 715, 717 (7th Cir. 2015). To survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), and instead must “establish some genuine issue for trial such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in her favor.” Gordon v. FedEx Freight, Inc., 674 F.3d 769, 772-73 (7th Cir. 2012). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court gives the nonmoving party “the benefit of conflicts in the evidence and reasonable inferences that could be drawn from it.” G ...


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