CHICAGO — The owners of a now-shuttered Chicago nightclub has escaped a woman's attempt to sue over a slip-and-fall incident she blamed on a spill that would "reaccumulate" in the packed club.
An Illinois appeals panel upheld a Cook County judge's decision to grant judgment to the owners of the former Time Nightclub in a dispute brought by plaintiff Jennier Litowitz, who claimed she fell on a puddle of some liquid on the floor of the club during a night out celebrating her graduation from business school in December 2015.
Terrence Lavin | Illinoiscourts.gov
The club, however, said she simply failed to watch where she was walking.
Justice Terrence J. Lavin delivered the decision on Feb. 28 in the Illinois First District Appellate Court. Justices James Fitzgerald Smith and Nathaniel R. Howse Jr. concurred with the decision. The decision was issued as an unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23, which limits its use as precedent.
Litowitz sued the company and its parent, Top Chach LLC, after she was injured in December 2015 at the club, which formerly operated in the 800 block of N. Orleans in Chicago's Near North Side. Litowitz claimed the company and nightclub staff were responsible for her condition as they knew about the risk of spilled liquids in the area.
She claimed that employees knew or should have been aware of the mess and that they owed patrons of the club “a duty of reasonable and ordinary care,” according to the appellate court decision.
Litowitz also alleges the defendants were negligent “when they... failed to inspect the premises for safety hazards including spilled drinks and other liquids to warn patrons of hazards upon the ground and to light the area,” according to the appellate court decision. The fall caused her to have surgery, which cost her a month off work.
She also told the court that she had mentioned an accumulation of liquid to the busboy several times that night.
“The busboy cleaned the liquid 'multiple times' and then it would 'reaccumulate,'" Lavin noted in the decision, reciting deposition testimony in the court record on appeal. "Plaintiff explained that the club was 'so packed that you would get bumped and everything would spill.' Plaintiff did not see the liquid when she fell."
Following the incident, Litowitz said she alerted a bouncer at the front door to the mess.
The day after the incident, Litowitz flew to Florida and did not immediately seek medical treatment even though she had a limp.
However, the defendants claim the incident was actually Litowitz’s fault, alleging “the proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries was her own negligence and failure to keep a proper lookout,” according to the decision.
Moreover, they claim they had a policy to keep the space clean and report any injuries. The owner and manager as well as the head of security all told the court they had not heard about the plaintiff’s fall.
“Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that they did not have actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, that is, the liquid that caused plaintiff’s fall," Lavin wrote in the decision. "The motion further alleged that there was no evidence that Time created the condition.”
The justices upheld the lower court's decision to grant summary judgment to the defendants.
“We affirm the entry of summary judgment in favor of defendants, finding that plaintiff failed to establish that the liquid she slipped on was placed on the floor by defendants’ employees or that defendants had actual or constructive notice of the alleged dangerous condition,” Lavin said in the decision.
The justices noted that Litowitz’s complaint lacked direct evidence linking the liquid to the defendants.
“In the absence of any evidence tending to show how long the liquid was on the floor before plaintiff fell, there is no basis for a jury to conclude that the liquid was on the floor long enough that defendants had constructive notice,” Lavin said in the decision.
Litowitz is represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Jacobson & Tchernev, of Chicago.
Time Nightclub is defended by the firm of SmithAmundsen, of Chicago.