CHICAGO – A woman who said she broke her ankle when she slipped and fell on ice in the parking lot of a Chicago Food 4 Less store can't sue the store or the company hired to clear ice and snow from the lot, a state appeals court has ruled.
On Dec. 18, a three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court upheld a Cook County judge's decision in favor of the supermarket chain, owned by Kroger Co., and lawn care company Pete's Lawn Care, which were sued by plaintiff Sharon Jordan.
The opinion was authored by Justice Mary Anne Mason. Justices Terrence Lavin and Michael Hyman concurred in the opinion.
Justice Mason noted, in slip-and-fall cases, the plaintiff typically bears the burden of proof showing that an accumulation of ice and snow was unnatural and that the defendants knew of the condition.
Justice Mary Anne Mason Illinoiscourts.gov
“Jordan does not assert in this appeal that she fell on an unnatural accumulation of ice, nor would the record support such an inference,” Mason wrote in the opinion.
The opinion added that Jordan did not claim defendants had increased the risk of a slip-and-fall, or that a premises defect caused water to pool and refreeze in places where people walk.
Food 4 Less had contracted with Cherry Logistics, which contracted Pete's Lawn Care, for snow and ice removal, and so could not be held liable for hiring the company for the purpose.
“Because Jordan does not allege negligent hiring, Food 4 Less is not liable for Jordan’s injuries as a matter of law,” Mason wrote.
The justices also stated that snowfall and ice formation removal can rarely be done perfectly, that weather cannot be controlled, and asking for perfection would place an unreasonable burden on a property owner.
The justices added Jordan had not brought a breach of contract suit and did not cite any law for status as a third-party beneficiary that would grant her such contract rights.
The justices further said no evidence had been presented that snow and ice accumulation at the accident site was unnatural, and declared that summary judgment for the defendants was proper. As a result, the court said there was no need to discuss whether Pete’s Lawn Care removal duties were triggered by its contract with Cherry Logistics.
Jordan was injured when she slipped and fell outside a grocery store owned by Food 4 Less on Nov. 12, 2013. Jordan reportedly slipped and fell on black ice near the store entrance, and was taken to Holy Cross Medical Center where an X-ray revealed three bones displaced in her ankle, requiring surgery.
In an amended complaint, Jordan alleged the defendants were negligent in monitoring weather conditions to determine if snow and ice removal was necessary, and were also negligent in removing snow and ice.
Although there was no evidence of an unnatural accumulation of ice, Jordan argued the contractor's contract assumed a duty to third parties to remove natural accumulations of snow and ice from the premises.
Jordan argued the contract between the parties created a “duty” to remove all ice in the parking lot.
Jordan is represented in the case by attorney Steven M. Dicker, of Chicago.
Defendants are represented by the firm of Meachum Boyle & Trafman, of Chicago.