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Kornfeind v. Target Corp.

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

November 12, 2019

CECELIA KORNFEIND, Plaintiff,
v.
TARGET CORP., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Matthew F. Kennelly United States District Judge

         Cecilia Kornfeind sued Target Corporation in Illinois state court, asserting a claim of negligence in connection with a slip and fall at a Target store. Target removed the case to federal court based on diversity of citizenship. Target has moved for summary judgement. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Target's motion.

         Facts

         The Court takes the following facts from the parties' summary judgment submissions.

         Kornfeind went to the Target store located at 4466 N. Broadway in Chicago on Sunday, March 13, 2016 with a group of people from her real estate class to study for a test. She arrived around 4:00 p.m. and studied at the Starbucks inside of the Target store for about two hours. When the study session finished around 6:00 p.m., Kornfeind became hungry and decided to go to the stores' Food Avenue to get something to eat with another person from her class named Valerie. Target's Food Avenue sells food items like pizza, hot dogs, and popcorn. It is a "very high traffic portion of the store." Kornfeind stood in line there for about 10 minutes and says she was able to see the area where she eventually slipped. She does not recall seeing anyone drop anything on the floor. After placing her food order and asking for a cup for water, Kornfeind walked toward the soda machines and slipped and fell on a substance. She noticed that the substance was oily or greasy and three to four steps away from the food counter. The fall occurred on the tile floor directly in front of one of two mats that had been placed in front of the soda machines.

         Several Target employees came to Kornfeind's aid. Victor Garduno arrived first after being called by a cashier; he paged Megan O'Connell, who then paged Jessica Medina. Medina completed an incident report. Dwayne Aponte, a Target "protection specialist," witnessed the incident via live surveillance.

         Target has a policy that requires every employee to inspect and clean the floor within her assigned area of the store. Garduno was one of the employees responsible for periodically checking the front end of the store, where the Food Avenue is located, to make sure there are no dangerous conditions like spills. He described his routine for inspecting the floor as "briefly walking over." Garduno and O'Connell stated that the Food Avenue area was inspected within three to seven minutes before the fall and that no substance was observed on the floor at that time. Medina also stated that a walk-through is done by a Target employee every five minutes. Target witnesses testified that on this particular day, no Target employees were aware of the existence of the alleged substance, they received no complaints about the presence of any substance on the floor, and they were unaware of any prior incidents or complaints involving the area of Kornfeind's fall. Finally, Kornfeind does not recall the mats on the floor having any rips or tears.

         Discussion

         Summary judgment is appropriate if "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 movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         To recover on a claim of negligence under Illinois law, the plaintiff must establish the existence of a duty owed by the defendant, a breach of that duty, and an injury proximately caused by the breach. See, e.g., Pavlik v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 323 Ill.App.3d 1060, 1063, 753 N.E.2d 1007, 1010 (2001). Illinois law imposes upon businesses a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition to avoid injuring their invitees. Reid v. Kohl's Dept. Stores, Inc., 545 F.3d 479, 481 (7th Cir. 2008). Target does not dispute this, instead it argues that Kornfeind cannot demonstrate that it breached its duty. Under Illinois law:

[a] business owner breaches it duty to an invitee who slips on a foreign substance if (1) the substance was placed there by the negligence of the proprietor or (2) its servant knew of its presence, or (3) the substance was there a sufficient length of time so that, in the exercise of ordinary care, its presence should have been discovered, i.e. the proprietor had constructive notice of the substance.

Pavlik, 323 Ill.App.3d at 1063, 753 N.E.2d at 1010 (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). When a plaintiff alleges constructive knowledge, the amount of time that the substance was on the floor is "of critical importance." Reid, 545 F.3d at 481 (internal quotation marks omitted). "Absent any evidence demonstrating the length of time that the substance was on the floor, a plaintiff cannot establish constructive knowledge." Id. at 482.

         Kornfeind contends that the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to infer that Target negligently caused the spill, had actual or constructive notice of the spill, or voluntarily assumed a duty to remedy all spills generated from the soda machines. Target disputes each contention. The Court addresses each point in turn.

         1. Creation ...


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