What is the greatest defense rule created in Illinois for retailers, restaurants and hospitality companies? You guessed it – the natural accumulation rule! Hands down this is my favorite rule because regardless of what county I’m in (yes, even Cook County), judges fairly and accurately apply this rule which means the Defense Wins!
My latest success was in McHenry County, Illinois. There were torrential rain storms throughout the day. The plaintiff slipped and fell in rain water as she was returning her shopping cart to the front indoor storage area in a vestibule of a large warehouse store.
The interesting thing about this case is when I was first assigned to it, I asked Plaintiff’s counsel for his theory of liability and his response was – “This happened inside-natural accumulation doesn’t apply.” Oh really? I guess Plaintiff’s counsel does not read my blog because if he did, he could have saved himself a lot of time and money.
So I proceeded with discovery knowing Plaintiff’s Counsel’s questions would be focused on the belief the natural accumulation rule did not apply inside – which is 100% false. The plaintiff and all other witnesses, including a police officer who happened to be in the vestibule, testified the one and only cause of the fall was rain water. At the close of fact discovery we moved for summary judgment.
WARNING! It was not that easy. Once we moved for summary judgment the plaintiff’s attorney learned the law and saw the error of his ways. Oops. You should be able to guess what he did next — asked for time to depose more fact witnesses and amended the complaint to assert the floors were excessively slippery when wet – of course. And of course all of this was allowed.
Fortunately my client’s floors were awesome, with fabulous coefficient of friction ratings, so the plaintiff hired an expert for nothing and that claim went no where. However, this is the one claim that can always thwart a beautiful natural accumulation defense and one you must be prepared to defend.
Many months after the summary judgment motion was filed it was finally fully briefed, then Covid-19 delayed us a little longer, but it was then argued before the court (in masks I might add). This was the longest and most strenuous argument I have had for a natural accumulation motion as it seemed clear the judge did not want to grant the motion. However, in the end, the judge did right thing and granted the motion, even awarding costs.
So the lesson to be learned again is – the natural accumulation rule applies inside!