Defense Wins! – Summary Judgment Granted Based On Lack Of A Dangerous Condition & Notice

There is nothing like ending the year on a good note!   I am happy to report summary judgment was recently granted in favor of one of my clients that operates a grocery store in Kankakee, Illinois. The plaintiff claimed she slipped and fell in water next to the meat cooler.

We were very fortunate in this case because we had surveillance footage of the aisle where the alleged incident took place.  The plaintiff testified she slipped and fell in water but she admitted she never saw water on the floor either before or after her incident.  Instead, she believed the floor felt wet on her bottom as she sat on the tile floor next to the meat cooler.

A manager spoke with the plaintiff after the incident and he testified he did not see water on the floor.  He also confirmed the coolers were fully operational with no leaks or repairs for that entire year.  The manager also explained how inspections were performed by the managers and department employees to ensure the floors were maintained and safe.

We moved for summary judgment and argued there was no known dangerous condition and even if water was on the floor, the store did not have notice of the water.  To support our argument that there was no dangerous condition, we relied on the plaintiff’s testimony and the surveillance footage.  The footage showed the plaintiff was in the meat aisle for more than 10 minutes before she fell and she walked over the area of her fall multiple times before having her incident.  During those 10 minutes, no employees were in the area.  The plaintiff admitted that each time she walked over the area she never saw or felt water or wetness on the floor.  Once she was on the floor, she never saw water and only felt what she perceived as wetness – but she was sitting on a cold tile floor next to a cooler.

As for notice, the manager testified about inspections performed by the managers and employees and the footage showed no employee was in the area within the 10 minutes the plaintiff walked back and forth over the area.  There was also no evidence to support even an inference that the coolers leaked.

The court evaluated every similar case on a state and federal level within Illinois and could not find one that supported the plaintiff’s case.  The judge admitted the case law supports that if the plaintiff cannot identify the cause of her fall and there is no basis to support constructive notice, summary judgment must be granted.

As an interesting side note, based on the surveillance footage we also filed a counter-claim for fraud and an affirmative defense for fraud against the plaintiff.  It was our position that the surveillance footage showed the plaintiff did not fall but went to the floor after walking over the area several times.  These claims were dismissed without prejudice as a result of the summary judgment motion being granted.