Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Haslett v. United Skates of America, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

August 14, 2019

DEBRA HASLETT, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
UNITED SKATES OF AMERICA, INC., CHICAGO CITY SKATING, LLC, and MILTON TORRENCE, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, County Department, Law Division. No. 15 L 8316 The Honorable John H. Ehrlich, Judge Presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: John Xydakis, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Robert Marc Chemers, David M. Bennett, and Scott L. Howie, of Pretzel & Stouffer, Chtrd., of Chicago, for appellees.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE FITZGERALD SMITH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Howse and Cobbs concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          FITZGERALD SMITH, PRESIDING JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 This appeal stems from a negligence cause of action filed by the plaintiff, Debra Haslett, against the defendants United Skates of America, Inc. (United Skates), Chicago City Skating LLC (Chicago Skating), and Milton Torrence, after she slipped and fell at a roller skating rink. The plaintiff alleged that she was injured as a result of the defendants' negligent failure to notice and remove a piece of hard candy on the rink surface, which caused her to fall. The circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants, holding that there was no evidence that the defendants had any notice of the alleged hazard or that this hazard was the cause of the plaintiff's fall. On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the trial court erred when it granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants because there remain genuine issues of material fact as to whether the defendants breached their duties to her and whether that breach proximately resulted in her injuries. In this respect, the plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in refusing to draw an adverse inference from the defendants' responses to discovery, which failed to include a video clip that the plaintiff believes would have shown the cause of her fall. The plaintiff also contends that the trial court erred when it denied her leave to amend her complaint for a third time. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 The record below reveals the following undisputed facts and procedural history. On July 13, 2015, the plaintiff was a roller skating customer at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Family Entertainment Center (the roller skating rink) in Chicago, which was co-owned, managed, operated, and controlled by the defendants, United Skates and Chicago Skating. The defendant, Torrence, was the assistant manager of the roller skating rink and an employee of United Skates. On July 13, 2015, while roller skating, the plaintiff fell injuring her back.

         ¶ 4 On August 14, 2015, the plaintiff filed her original complaint against United Skates and Torrence, alleging negligence, and violations of the Roller Skating Rink Safety Act (745 ILCS 72/1 et seq. (West 2014)). On October 15, 2015, she filed her first amended complaint, adding as an additional defendant, Chicago Skating.

         ¶ 5 On February 16, 2016, the plaintiff filed the instant second amended complaint, alleging only "negligence" against the three defendants. Therein, she alleged that on July 13, 2015, she was a "business invitee" of the roller skating rink and that she fell as a proximate result of the defendants' breach of the following duties: (1) to reasonably inspect and monitor the skating surface to ensure that it was free from defects and foreign objects; (2) to have adequately trained floor guards to direct and supervise skaters, watch for foreign objects that may have fallen on the floor, and use reasonable care in their duties; (3) to maintain the skating surface in a reasonably safe condition and clean and inspect the skating surface before each session; (4) to supervise and operate the roller skating rink in a reasonably safe condition to ensure the floors were clean; (5) to warn any participants of unforeseen dangers; and/or (6) to have adequate lighting necessary to see any defects and foreign objects on the skating surface.

         ¶ 6 After the defendants filed their answer and affirmative defenses, alleging assumption of risk and comparative negligence, the case proceeded with extensive discovery, during which, inter alia, the following individuals were deposed: (1) the plaintiff; (2) the plaintiff's grandson, Elijah Goshay (Elijah); (3) the plaintiff's granddaughter, Jada Goshay (Jada); (4) the plaintiff's husband, Charles Estes; (5) two of the plaintiff's sisters, Juanita Cunningham and Patricia Haslett (Haslett); (6) the defendant Torrence; (7) the general manager of the roller skating rink, Tenesha Taylor; and (8) one of the roller skating rink floor guards, Kyle Barnett.

         ¶ 7 For purposes of brevity, we set forth only that deposition testimony relevant to the disposition of this appeal.

         ¶ 8 The plaintiff testified that she has roller skated since she was five years old and that she is an expert skater. The plaintiff averred that she was very familiar with the roller skating rink because she skated there at least once a week for many years. On June 13, 2015, together with two of her grandchildren, Elijah and Jada, the plaintiff attended her nephew's kindergarten graduation party at the roller skating rink. She brought and wore her own skates for the occasion. Those skates had been purchased in 2013 and had no toe stops in the front because, as an expert skater, the plaintiff could stop simply by sliding sideways.

         ¶ 9 According to the plaintiff, when she arrived at the skating rink, she waited for the rink to open. She saw no one on the rink floor and no one sweeping or cleaning it. When the next "all skate" session was announced she was the first to enter the rink. There were two floor guards on the floor. The plaintiff skated counterclockwise for about 10 minutes and completed at least one turn before she "just all of a sudden fell" backwards seriously injuring her back. The plaintiff stated that she did not run into anyone and was not shoved, pushed, or pulled from behind and made no contact with any other skater before she fell.

         ¶ 10 The plaintiff averred that she fell because she rolled over a piece of hard candy. The plaintiff, however, could not state how large the candy was, for how long that candy had been on the rink floor before she tripped over it, where it came from, or how it got there. She acknowledged that she never saw the candy before or after she fell but stated that she "felt rolling over something." The plaintiff admitted that she did not see any object that she could have tripped over on the rink floor either before or after she fell, even though she had skated in that same area when making her first circle around the rink. As the plaintiff averred, "the candy had to be invisible." When asked to explain how she knew that she fell over a piece of candy, the plaintiff stated that after she had been taken to the hospital her sister told her that "this is what they got off her skates." The plaintiff acknowledged that at the time of her fall, no one told her that she had tripped over a piece of candy, and she herself never looked at her skates to determine whether there was anything stuck to them. The plaintiff also admitted that she never told any of the rink employees that she rolled or fell over something while skating but averred that she failed to do so because she was in too much pain. She also denied ever having told any of the employees at the rink that she fell because a "boy cut her off" while skating.

         ¶ 11 After falling, the plaintiff felt her back "break," experience excruciating pain and was unable to breathe. She lay on her stomach, calling for help and asking that her skates be taken off. After a floor guard approached to help and take off her skates, the plaintiff was transported to the hospital. The plaintiff's mother retrieved the skates from the floor guard, put them in the plaintiff's bag, and returned them to the plaintiff's house. The plaintiff did not see her skates until at least three days later when she returned home from the hospital. She could not state exactly when she inspected her skates but admitted that she did not inspect them immediately upon her release home. Rather, sometime later, when she was moving things around her house, she looked at the skates and noticed "red crumbled up" pieces of candy on the front wheels. The plaintiff believed these came from hard red Jolly Rancher candy. She, however, did not take photographs of the skates and had no personal knowledge as to how or when the candy pieces got onto the wheels.

         ¶ 12 In his deposition, the plaintiff's grandson, Elijah, testified that on July 13, 2015, he attended the graduation party at the roller skating rink with his grandmother. Elijah was eating pizza at one of the tables next to the roller skating rink floor, when he learned that the plaintiff had fallen. He was facing away from the skating floor and did not see the plaintiff fall or anything that may have caused her to fall. After he went onto to rink floor to help the plaintiff, Elijah did not see any candy there. He also never heard anyone at the rink say anything about candy causing the plaintiff's fall. The first time he heard anything about candy was when he was at the hospital where the plaintiff's husband, Estes, told him that the plaintiff had fallen on candy. Elijah admitted that he has no personal information or knowledge of the candy and does not know what caused the plaintiff to fall.

         ¶ 13 In her deposition, the plaintiff's granddaughter, Jada, stated that, together with her grandmother, on July 13, 2015, she attended the graduation party at the roller skating rink. She was going to get a slushy and was looking for her brother, Elijah, when she learned that the plaintiff had fallen. She did not see the plaintiff fall. She went onto the rink floor and saw the plaintiff on the floor, and Elijah next to her trying to help. Jada did not see anything on the rink surface that might have caused the plaintiff to fall and does not know what caused her to fall. Jada vaguely recalled hearing that the plaintiff fell because she was "cut off by a boy while skating." However, she could not remember when or from whom she had heard this.

         ¶ 14 In his deposition, the plaintiff's husband, Estes, testified that prior to the incident he had skated many times at the roller skating rink with the plaintiff. He explained that the plaintiff's passion was roller skating and that she was an excellent skater who never fell. Estes acknowledged that he did not attend the plaintiff's nephew's graduation party and was therefore not present when the plaintiff fell. He learned of her fall from one of the plaintiff's family members who had telephoned to say that she had fallen on some candy or "something." Estes could not remember which family member had telephoned. After he learned of the accident, Estes immediately went to the roller skating rink and then accompanied the plaintiff to the hospital. He averred that the plaintiff was in excruciating pain and that at that time he was not concerned with what had caused her to fall but rather with getting her immediate treatment. The plaintiff later told Estes that she fell over something and that others had told her that it was a piece of candy.

         ¶ 15 In her deposition, one of the plaintiff's sisters, Cunningham, who hosted the graduation party, testified that she was at the concession stand when she learned of the plaintiff's fall. She did not see the fall and did not know what caused it. When Cunningham rushed onto the floor to help the plaintiff, she did not see "any candy or anything on the floor."

         ¶ 16 In her deposition, another one of the plaintiff's sisters, Haslett, testified that she did not attend the graduation party at the roller skating rink and therefore did not see the plaintiff fall. She learned of the fall on that same afternoon, when a family member telephoned her to inform her that the plaintiff was in the hospital. Haslett immediately went to the hospital to see her sister. According to Haslett, at that time, the plaintiff told her that she fell because "some boy grabbed her" and she "tripped." Haslett was asked to watch several surveillance videos from the roller skating rink and admitted that in those video clips she could not see anyone who grabbed the plaintiff.

         ¶ 17 In his deposition, the defendant, Torrence, testified that on the day of the incident, he was the assistant manager of the roller skating rink. He was employed by the defendant United Skates but paid by the defendant Chicago Skating. Torrence was trained in the Roller Skating Association standards and agreed that under those standards the skating surface must be clean and free of debris at all times. He also agreed that floor guards are responsible, inter alia, for monitoring the skating floor and making sure that the floor is free from debris both before and ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.