DEFENSE WINS! – NATURAL ACCUMULATION INSIDE THE STORE

I recently wrote an article about how the natural accumulation doctrine applies inside the premises, not just outside, and that must have brought me luck because shortly thereafter I succeeded in obtaining summary judgment in DuPage County for my client based on natural accumulation inside the store.

The plaintiff slipped and fell in water just after she entered the store.  The plaintiff did not report her incident until a few days later and she could not recall if any mats or wet floor signs were present at the entrance.  After the incident but before retaining counsel, the plaintiff gave a recorded statement and admitted it was raining outside and she slipped in rain water. 

After counsel was retained and suit was filed, counsel argued the water was from a leaking roof.  (It’s always amazing how Plaintiff’s counsel knows more about causation than the client.)  After quite a bit of discovery, counsel could find no evidence of a leaking roof so we filed a motion for summary judgment based on natural accumulation. 

In response to the motion, the plaintiff argued that because the store had a “rainy day policy” to use floor mats and wet floor signs, and there was a question as to whether the mats and signs were used that day, the motion should be denied.  In reply we argued that (1) a rainy day policy to use mats and cones was irrelevant and did not negate the natural accumulation doctrine and (2) the plaintiff’s failure to report her incident and failure to recall if mats were in place is not a proper basis to create a question of fact.  The judge agreed with both of our arguments and granted our motion.

The plaintiff also argued the floor may have been made of an improper material, and therefore, a hazard when wet so the plaintiff should be allowed to explore that issue and retain an expert.  This was the first time such a claim was raised and it was not asserted in the complaint so we objected to it and it was not addressed by the judge.

The moral to this story is that Plaintiffs’ attorneys need to better understand natural accumulation law and when a potential client comes to them with a case involving a natural accumulation, quit thinking you can change or bypass the law.  Stop accepting cases involving natural accumulation because 9 times out of 10 you will not win. 

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