A plaintiff’s attorney recently told me the natural accumulation doctrine does not apply inside the premises, and he inferred I was a little crazy for saying it did. Looks like someone needs to spend a little more time on Westlaw, and it isn’t me.
The natural accumulation doctrine is a wonderful thing because it is one of the most logical and practical laws in Illinois and it is generally followed by all judges. When it rains and snows, that rain and snow is tracked into the store or restaurant by customers on their feet. This is something that cannot be prevented and cannot be easily controlled. Therefore, the natural accumulation doctrine protects businesses from liability related to that tracked in rain and snow INSIDE the business. To prove it, here are cases you need to know about if you are defending claims in Illinois because the plaintiff’s bar still believes it can sue for slips and falls due to rain and snow inside.
Tracked in water at entrance
A business is not liable for falls caused by water tracked into the premises from snow or rain outside.
See, Reed v. Galaxy Holdings, Inc., 394 Ill. App. 3d 39, (1st Dist. 2009); Lohan v. Walgreens, 140 Ill.App.3d 171 (1st Dist. 1986); Beaumont v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 782 F.Supp.2d 656 (N.D. IL 2011); Winberg v. Lubeoil Development Co., Inc., 2014 IL App (2d) 130867-U; Ashtari v. GFS Marketplace, LLC, 2011 WL 3348063; Bilek v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2017 IL App (1st) 163110-U
Floor mats saturated with water
When a store places floor mats near the entrance, they cannot be held liable if the mats become saturated with water if the water is from outside rain or snow. That condition is considered a natural accumulation.
See, Reed v. Galaxy Holdings, Inc., 394 Ill. App. 3d 39, (1st Dist. 2009); Wilson v. Gorski’s Food Fair, 196 Ill.App.3d 612 (1st Dist. 1990); Bernard v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 166 Ill.App.3d 533 (1st Dist. 1988) Pytlewski v. U.S., 991 F. Supp. 1043 (N.D. IL 1998)
Rain water dripping off shopping carts
Shopping carts brought into the store from the outside that were dripping water from the rain were considered a natural accumulation. It made no difference if the carts were brought into the store from customer or store employees.
See, Bilek v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2017 IL App (1st) 163110-U; Domkiene v. Menards, Inc., 2016 WL 4607888 (N.D. IL ); Bernard v. Supervalu, Inc., 2013 WL 6050616 (N.D. IL)
Puddle from snow/ice dripping off pipes brought onto premises was natural accumulation
A pipe was brought onto a construction site and it had snow and ice on it from being outside. The snow and ice fell to the floor and created a puddle and the plaintiff slipped and fell in the puddle. The natural accumulation doctrine was applied. Choi v. Commonwealth Edison Company, 217 Ill.App.3d 952 (1st Dist. 1991)
10 minutes in store still amounts to natural accumulation
Plaintiff walked through several inches of snow to enter the store and walked around the store for 10 minutes before slipping and falling. No evidence of any other source of moisture was provided, except melted snow. Nunez v. Gordon Food Service, Inc., 2017 WL 3610566 (C.D. IL 2017)
Sole point of ingress/egress area – does not change the natural accumulation doctrine
Even if the area of the incident is the sole point of ingress/egress to the premises, the natural accumulation doctrine applies.
See, Reed v. Galaxy Holdings, Inc., 394 Ill. App. 3d 39, (1st Dist. 2009); Branson v. R & L Investment, Inc., 196 Ill.App.3d 1088 (1st Dist. 1990)