A “Step” in the Right Direction: Illinois Appellate Court Rules on Slip and Fall Cases

Author: Heather deBettencourt

Guest Editor: Grace Shuman

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June 7, 2022 9:51am

 

The First District Appellate Court took a “step” in the right direction for the defense of slip and fall cases,  after ruling in favor of a hotel in Aalbers v. LaSalle Hotel Properties.[1]  In an opinion filed last month, the appellate court affirmed summary judgement on the basis of the plaintiff’s failure to demonstrate there was a condition, let alone a defective condition, in the flooring that caused her fall in the hotel lobby.

 

Background

The plaintiff was walking through the hotel lobby when she tripped, fell, and sustained bodily injury.  During her deposition, the plaintiff admitted she did not see a lip or ledge in the flooring.  She also admitted she did not inspect the floor, nor was she able to describe the ledge in any way.[2]  In granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the trial court reasoned that plaintiff could not describe the appearance, shape, size, or material composition of the alleged condition that caused her fall; she only stated it was “something” like a lip or ledge that she felt, but never saw.[3]

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s award of summary judgment, reasoning that the plaintiff was unable to establish the existence of a dangerous condition in the lobby flooring and that she also was unable to establish the existence of any hazard which caused her to fall.[4]  The appellate court determined she could not meet her burden with respect to proximate cause.[5]

 

Prior Appellate Decision – Kimbrough Case

 The appellate court in Aalbers relied heavily on a prior appellate court case from 1981, Kimbrough v. Jewel.[6]  In Kimbrough, the plaintiff fell on a ramp at the defendant’s store but was unable to identify what caused her to fall.[7]  The plaintiff alleged in her deposition there were grease spots on the ramp floor, however, she was unable to establish she had made any contact with the grease spots.[8]

Like in Aalbers, the appellate court in Kimbrough reasoned it was not enough for a plaintiff to only show they fell on the defendant’s flooring.  The plaintiff must prove “some condition caused the fall and this condition was caused by the defendant.”[9]  The court held the plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof in this case.

 

Takeaway

For Illinois plaintiff and defense attorneys, the Aalbers and Kimbrough cases provide a template for taking a plaintiff’s deposition in slip and fall litigation.  These two cases reinforce the prudent philosophy that testimony elicited at a deposition can make or break a case.  Ensuring a strategy is set prior to a deposition, rather than simply asking questions, will prove beneficial when a case proceeds to trial.

Premises owners can rely upon the Aalbers and Kimbrough decisions to establish a strong defense against liability for injuries sustained as a result of a slip and fall alleged to have been caused by a dangerous or defective premises condition.  The burden is on plaintiffs to identify the existence of a specific condition, establish it was a dangerous or defective condition, and show such condition was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.  If there is no clear causal link between the alleged defective condition and the injury to the plaintiff, the plaintiff has not proven their case.

Tyson & Mendes attorneys have handled numerous slip and fall cases and are experts in defending these types of claims.  Please contact our office with any questions regarding slip and fall cases or any other general liability cases in Illinois.

 

 

 


[1] Aalbers v. LaSalle Hotel Properties, 2022 IL App (1st) 210494.

[2] Id. at 4.

[3] Id. at 10.

[4] Id. at 27.

[5] Id. at 33.

[6] Kimbrough v. Jewel Cos., 92 Ill. App. 3d 813 (1981).

[7] Id. at 814-815.

[8] Id. at 816.

[9] Id. at 818 (emphasis added).

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