Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 14 L 007887
Illinois. Honorable John H. Ehrlich, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE MASON delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Neville and Justice Pucinski
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiff Robin Allen was injured when she slipped in the
parking lot of a strip mall. The property owner, defendant
Alliance Investment Source, LLC, had a contract for snow
removal with defendant ZL Landscaping, Inc. Allen brought
suit against Alliance and ZL, among others, alleging that
their negligent maintenance of the lot caused an unnatural
accumulation of snow and ice that caused her fall.
2 The trial court granted summary judgment to defendants, and
we affirm. Although Allen's experts presented some
evidence of an unnatural accumulation of ice in the parking
lot, Allen could not establish a causal relationship between
that alleged unnatural accumulation and her fall since she
did not see what she fell on but only "assum[ed]"
and "guess[ed]" that it was ice. Thus, she failed
to raise an issue of material fact as to whether
defendants' alleged negligence was the proximate cause of
4 Around 8 a.m. on February 10, 2013, Allen was going to a
Jazzercise class at 1151 Waukegan Road in Glenview, Illinois.
The studio was located in a strip mall owned by Alliance.
According to Allen, the parking lot was covered in
matted-down snow. As she walked across the parking lot, she
slipped and fell, fracturing her ankle.
5 Allen initially brought suit against Alliance and others
who are not parties to this appeal. She later amended her
complaint to add ZL as a defendant. In her second amended
complaint, she alleged that the design of the parking lot
caused melted snow to pool and freeze in areas where
customers walk. She also alleged that ZL plowed the parking
lot in ways that caused unnatural accumulations of snow and
ice, including "black ice" in uneven, deteriorated
areas of the parking lot.
6 During her deposition, Allen discussed three factors that
she believed contributed to her fall. First, she
"assum[ed]" that she slipped on a patch of ice.
"COUNSEL FOR ALLIANCE: Do you know if you stepped upon a
patch of ice that was underneath the snow or if the snow in
and of itself was slippery?
ALLEN: I'm just assuming that it was ice, but I don't
know that for sure. I mean, the way I went down and the fact
that I went down so fast made me think that there was ice
under the snow.
Q. But you can't say with any degree of certainty if it
was a patch of ice that you slipped on, correct?
A. I did not see any ice, but I did see snow.
Q. Since you didn't see any ice, would you agree that any
statement that you would have tripped on ice would be a guess
on your part?
A. It would be a guess on my part."
7 Second, there was a three-foot-high mound of snow a few
yards away from where Allen fell. Allen stated that the mound
"easily could have" contributed to her fall:
"[T]he weather the week prior [was] warm and then cold
and then warm and then cold. So I could see the mounds
thawing and then refreezing when it got cold." But she
did not observe trailing water, or anything else, leading
from the mound to the spot where she fell. Third, the snow in
the parking lot was matted down, rather than fresh, which she
believed made it more likely that someone would fall.
8 After Allen fell, she scooted on her backside back to her
car, which was 20 to 30 feet away. The snow was compacted and
slippery. She "assum[ed]" it was icy because she
was able to maneuver across the surface. While scooting back
to her car, she saw "slippery stuff beneath the snow,
which she later characterized as ice. But she reiterated that
she did not see any ice at the spot where she fell. When
Allen reached her car, she called for paramedics, and an
ambulance came. The paramedics carried her on a stretcher to
get her into the ambulance, which was difficult because they
were "slipping" and "sliding."
9 Officer Anthony Nitti responded to the scene of Allen's
accident at around 8:30 a.m. He observed ice throughout the
parking lot, including areas of bumpy ice. Nitti had to be
very careful and take small steps while crossing. He saw no
unplowed snow in the lot. Although Nitti did not issue a
citation to the owner of the parking lot, he believed that
the slippery condition of the parking lot could be hazardous.
10 At the time of Allen's fall, Alliance had a lease
agreement with Jazzercise providing that Alliance was
"responsible for the removal of snow, ice and debris
from the sidewalks, walkways, parking lot and other exterior
areas of the Premises *** on a timely basis."
11 Under Alliance's contract with ZL for snow removal,
after any snowfall of two or more inches, ZL was required to
plow the parking lot and remove snow from the adjacent
walkways. The contract did not state that ZL had to remove
ice or salt the parking lot; it only referenced "[s]now
[p]lowing" and "snow removal." Nevertheless,
Alex Zdanov, Alliance's managing member, understood that
ZL would salt if necessary. Likewise, Alina Sandal, whose job
it was to answer phone calls related to maintenance issues on
the premises, thought ZL was salting throughout the snow
plowing season. But Zenon Lopez, the owner of ZL, stated that
Sandal told him not to salt the parking lot, a service for
which ZL would have charged extra. In any case, it is
undisputed that ZL did not salt the parking lot prior to
¶ 12 Lopez performed all of ZL's snow removal
services. When he plowed the Jazzercise parking lot, he
typically pushed the snow to the east and south edges of the
lot, creating mounds of snow. He did not use a dump truck to
remove snow from the site. If Lopez plowed during the day
when there were cars in the lot, he could not plow those
areas. If there was a lot of snow, Lopez would plow around
the cars, making a "path" or "trench" in
which the cars could drive. Lopez would then return at night
when the parking lot was empty to finish plowing.
¶ 13 Lopez could not independently recall the condition
of the parking lot on February 8 through 10. Sometime in
February after Allen's fall, a representative from
Alliance called Lopez to tell him that there had been an
accident in the parking lot and ask him to salt. Lopez salted
the parking lot later that day. Alliance agreed to pay him an
additional $150 per month for salting, and they paid him the
full amount for February even though he started mid-month. An
invoice from ZL ...