Judge: Menards can't shake man's trip & fall suit; danger posed by display base not so 'open & obvious'

By Charmaine Little | Oct 10, 2018

CHICAGO – A federal judge will allow a man to continue his lawsuit against home improvement retailer Menards, over the man's claims he suffered injuries tripping over a display at a suburban store two years ago. 

On Oct. 1, Magistrate Judge Young B. Kim, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, denied Menard's motion for summary judgment in the action brought by plaintiffs Charles and Kimberly Seay.

The Seays sued for negligence and loss of consortium after Charles Seay allegedly tripped on a display base at a Menards store in Evergreen Park in 2016. Menards filed for summary judgment, stating the danger of the display case was open and obvious. But Judge Kim disagreed and denied the motion.

Kim pointed out Seay didn’t recognize the size or height of the trim when he observed the display. He rather allegedly tripped on a part of the trim that blended in with the floor. Kim added there wasn’t a sign or arrow that would indicate or warn Seay or other customers about the black trim. 

“The evidence in this case simply does not allow for only one conclusion as to the openness or obviousness of the impediment on which Charles tripped,” Kim determined.

While Menards said the plaintiffs put too much of a burden on it to foresee any risks and consequences, Kim disagreed and said Menards could have notified customers with something as small as a sign about the potentially dangerous condition of the display base.

In the incident, Charles Seay was shopping in the store when his foot allegedly caught on the display, causing him to fall. In its motion, Menards said Seay saw the base at least 15 feet before he actually got close to it. Therefore, the store argues he was fully aware it was there prior to his fall. 

While it was a congested area, Menards added Seay had enough room to veer around the display without getting too close to the other customers. Still, the Seays argued Charles Seay wasn’t looking directly at the base just before he fell. Instead, he was looking straight ahead. They also challenged Menards' argument that he had plenty of room to walk and said there wasn’t that much of an open space.

The Seays are represented in the case by attorney Brian Murphy, of the firm of Hofeld & Schaffner, of Chicago.

Menards is represented by attorneys Laura E. Fahey, Gary T. Jansen and Nicole D. Milos, of the firm of Cremer, Spina, Shaughnessy, Jansen & Siegert LLC, of Chicago.

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Organizations in this Story

Cremer, Shaughnessy, Spina, Jansen & S Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois Hofeld and Schaffner Menard Inc

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