It is no secret that I LOVE the natural accumulation doctrine in Illinois. I don’t mean to be a legal geek, but the law is well written, well applied, it makes logical sense and it actually helps the defendant – how can you not love it?
One more reason to love it is that I recently obtained summary judgment for a client based on the natural accumulation doctrine.
The plaintiff was a passenger in a car in the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant when she realized she forgot to order an item. While the car was parked at the pick-up window, the plaintiff exited the car and planned to go into the restaurant to place an order.
The weather was very bad most of the day and while the plaintiff drove to the restaurant it was sleeting. As she exited the car, the plaintiff walked with caution because the ground was slippery but after taking 5 steps the plaintiff slipped and fell on ice. After falling, the plaintiff saw the entire parking lot was coated in clear ice. She admitted she fell because of the ice and the only cause of the ice was the weather. The plaintiff’s husband, who was in the car, confirmed her testimony about the weather conditions.
The plaintiff’s attorney, fully knowing the significant impact of the natural accumulation doctrine, argued the fall was actually caused by a slope in the parking lot pavement and that said slope caused an excess of ice to develop. A store employee admitted there was a slope and there was one area where water and ice occasionally built-up, but she did not say this occurred that day and the photographs marked by the plaintiff and employee confirmed the plaintiff did not fall by that build-up area.
The judge ruled the plaintiff did not fall by the slope and the only cause of the fall was the inclement weather and ice, so the natural accumulation doctrine applied. The judge agreed that counsel’s theory about the slope causing the fall was not supported by any evidence so it did not create a question of material fact. Summary judgment was granted in March, 2017. The plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider but it was denied.
photo credit: Doundounba <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/8613864@N08/33172697595″>Collected Flakes (Feb 7th 2017)</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>