CHICAGO — A state appeals panel has determined Jewel-Osco had no duty to keep a man from being injured as he attempted to stop a woman from stealing his wife's purse in a Chicago store.

On March 27, the three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court affirmed the dismissal of the personal injury case against the Chicago area supermarket chain.

Justice Michael B. Hyman
Justice Michael B. Hyman |

Justice Michael Hyman issued the opinion, with justices Aurelia Pucinski and Mary Anne Mason concurring.

The case centered on claims brought by plaintiff Aaron Seals, who said another person stole his wife’s purse while they were shopping at a Jewel-Osco store. Seals purportedly chased the thief through the store and got into an altercation with the individual, and was injured in the process.

Seals then filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court, claiming the supermarket chain should be held liable for his injuries because he did not receive assistance from the store's security guards or employees. He also argued Jewel-Osco should have known that the thief “‘was dangerous’” because she “‘had on multiple occasions committed criminal acts on the premises and that her presence posed a danger to anyone present on the premises,’” according to the appellate court decision.  

Jewel-Osco argued it should not be held liable because the incident was not “‘reasonably foreseeable’” and that Seals’ “allegations showed that he ‘was injured only after he voluntarily chose to pursue’ the offender,” Hyman wrote in the opinion.

The trial court dismissed the case with prejudice, finding Seals’ claims of “‘known criminal activity’ at Jewel-Osco’s store were ‘speculative and conclusory’ and ‘devoid of any specific facts,’ and Seals ‘failed to plead a single fact that would show [the] defendant was on notice of the need to police its premises,’” according to the appellate court decision.

Seals appealed the decision, claiming “the trial court abused its discretion by ruling on the motion to dismiss before discovery closed, as discovery would have demonstrated incidents of criminal activity that occurred at the store before the incident here.” Additionally, he claimed the trial court erred when it declined to grant his motion to reconsider.

The appellate justices, however, sided with the trial court.

Hyman wrote in the opinion that the supermarket chain could not be held liable unless the criminal acts and Seals’ response were “reasonably foreseeable.”

“We conclude that the trial court did not err in dismissing the amended complaint,” Hyman wrote in the opinion. “While Seals pled sufficient facts that Jewel-Osco had a special relationship (business inviter and invitee), he failed to plead sufficient facts to support the conclusion that the theft and Seals’ resulting injuries from pursing the offender were reasonably foreseeable so as to impose a duty on Jewel-Osco to protect and warn Seals.”

Additionally, Hyman wrote that Seals waited “until after the court dismissed his amended complaint before moving to compel Jewel-Osco to respond” to interrogatories for discovery.

“Thus, the trial court never had the opportunity to exercise its discretion to rule on any discovery motion before it granted the motion to dismiss,” Hyman wrote.

The decision was issued an unpublished order issued under Supreme Court Rule 23, which limits its use as precedent.

According to Cook County court records, Seals is represented by attorney Timothy Tyler, of Chicago.

Jewel-Osco is represented by attorneys with the firm of Haynes Studnicka Kahan & Poulakidis LLC, of Chicago.

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