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Heisey v. Meijer Stores Limited Partnership

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

May 14, 2018

LOIS HEISEY, Plaintiff,



         On February 9, 2017, plaintiff Lois Heisey filed this action [3, Ex A] against defendant Meijers Stores Limited Partnership and Meijers, Inc. (collectively, defendants or “Meijers”) for premises liability. Heisey claims she slipped and fell on a wet floor while grocery shopping at one of defendants' stores. The case was filed in Illinois state court in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Meijers filed a timely Notice of Removal [3] on March 6, 2017 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and 1332. On June 13, 2017, the parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court for all proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) [19].

         Meijers now moves for summary judgment [39]. For the reasons set forth below, Meijers motion for summary judgment is denied.[1]

         I. Relevant Facts

         The following facts are taken from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements and the exhibits attached thereto.

         Defendant Meijers is a large store, about half of which is dedicated to selling groceries. (Defs Statement of Facts “SOF” [40] ¶ 12.) On September 4, 2015, plaintiff was shopping at the Meijers store in St. Charles, Illinois, along with her friend Connie Wortman. (Defs SOF ¶¶ 6, 13) Richard Dunnett, a Meijers employee, was working at the Meijers in St. Charles on this date. (Defs SOF ¶ 8.) At approximately 2:30 pm, while plaintiff was in the store shopping, Dunnett observed a large area in the main aisle of the store that required mopping. (Defs SOF ¶ 14.) Video footage from the store shows that Dunnett retrieved the mop and then cleaned up the area. (Defs SOF ¶ 15.) The parties dispute the reason for the mopping. Defendants state that there was Gatorade leaking from a pyramid display. (Pls Resp SOF [42] ¶ 14.) Plaintiff disputes this fact because there is no Gatorade display in the video footage and no evidence of colored liquid. (Pls Resp SOF ¶ 14.) In addition, Meijers characterizes Dunnett's mopping as “spot mopping” with a “light moist mop.” (Defs SOF ¶¶ 11, 17.) Plaintiff denies that Dunnett's mop was only “lightly moist.” (Pls Resp SOF ¶¶ 16-17.) The parties agree (and the video demonstrates) that while he was mopping, Dunnett placed three wet floor/warning cones in the main aisle, and then left the main aisle to retrieve paper towels in order to continue cleaning up the area. (Defs SOF ¶ 20.)

         At approximately 2:32 pm, before Dunnett had returned, plaintiff and her friend were walking down the main aisle of the store. (Defs SOF ¶ 29-32.) As they reached the area where the warning cones had been placed, plaintiff slipped and fell. (Defs SOF ¶ 32) Moments later, Dunnett returned to the area with paper towels and kneepads and found plaintiff on the ground. (Pls Resp SOF ¶ 38.)

         Fernando Corral was a Meijers store manager and he was working at the time that plaintiff was at the store. (Def's SOF ¶ 7). After plaintiff's fall, Corral filled out a Customer Incident report, in which he stated that Dunnett had “spot mopped” the floor, which was “a bit wet.” (Pls Resp SOF ¶ 37.) The report also noted that Dunnett had “placed three wet floor signs [and] went to [get] towels to dry it better [and] when he returned Lois [Heisey] had fallen...” (Id.)

         Plaintiff, her friend, Dunnett, and Corral were all deposed during discovery. In plaintiff's deposition, she admitted that, prior to her fall, she understood that the wet floor/caution signs were used to warn of a hazard or wet floor in the area of the signs. (Pls Resp. SOF ¶ 40.) She also testified that there was nothing obstructing her view of the signs, and that she was aware of the signs before her fall. (Id.) She stated that before she fell, she had glanced up at the aisle signs hanging from the ceiling because she was looking for the aisle with the baking pans. (Id.) She also stated that after she fell, her hands and her clothes were wet from the water on the ground. (Id.) Plaintiff's friend also testified that plaintiff's clothes were wet after the fall. (Pls Resp SOF ¶ 41.) She characterized the water on the floor as “black ice” because it was difficult to see. (Id.) Both plaintiff and her friend testified that after plaintiff's fall, Dunnett was the first person to arrive and he apologized and said he should have dried the area better. (Pls. Resp SOF ¶¶ 40-41.)

         At his deposition, Corral was shown the video and asked about the placement of the cones in relation to where plaintiff fell. (Pls Resp SOF ¶ 39.) Corral testified that “It does seem like there is a bit of a distance.” (Id.) However, he also testified that he was confident that Dunnett's actions here and the placement of the cones were adequate and completely in line with what is expected at Meijers and in the retail industry in general. (Defs Resp SOF [46] ¶ 14-15.)

         As part of her complaint, plaintiff alleged that as a result of her fall at Meijers, she suffered serious personal injury and damages, including medical treatment costs exceeding $52, 000, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, as well as future medical expenses. (Compl, ¶ 8.)

         II. Analysis

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the evidence of record 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). There is no genuine dispute of material fact when "no reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party." Van Antwerp v. City of Peoria, 627 F.3d 295, 297 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Brewer v. Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of Ill., 479 F.3d 908, 915 (7th Cir. 2007)). The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact by specific citation to the record; if the party succeeds in doing so, the burden shifts to the ...

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