Appeals panel: Woman who bumped into half-open Hobby Lobby door should have looked, waited before entering

By Cook County Record | Feb 15, 2019

ELGIN — A state appeals panel says a McHenry woman can't keep alive her lawsuit against Hobby Lobby after she walked into an automatic door at one of the chain's crafting stores.

On Feb. 1, a three-justice panel of the Illinois Second District Appellate Court ruled in favor of the craft retailer, affirming the McHenry County Circuit Court decision in the lawsuit filed by plaintiff Elizabeth Paschk.

Justice Robert Spence authored the decision, joined by justices Kathryn Zenoff and Michael Burke. The ruling was filed under Supreme Court Rule 23, and may not be cited by any party except in limited circumstances.

Paschke sued the retailer alleging she was injured by an automatic door at its McHenry location.

Justice Robert Spence  

"On Dec. 17, 2015, she and her husband went to a Hobby Lobby store in McHenry," Spence wrote. "They walked from the parking lot toward the outside automatic sliding glass doors. As plaintiff approached, the doors began to slide open, and she began to walk through.  At the same time, other customers were exiting the doors.  However, without any warning, the doors failed to completely open, and plaintiff’s right shoulder struck the outside doors."

The store's assistant manager later informed Paschke that the controls at the door were set to not open completely “due to concerns about wind.” That same manager, per the ruling, "also said that another time when the outside doors were set to reduced opening, a customer walked into the doors and injured his head and face."

Paschke claimed negligence and other violations of the law in her case.

She said she needed surgery to repair the injury to her shoulder.

Hobby Lobby responded by asking the judge in December 2017 to end the case, saying "although plaintiff testified that she thought the doors would open wider than they did when she stepped through them, the size of the opening was objectively open and obvious to a reasonable person."

The justices sided with Hobby Lobby, saying it didn't matter how wide the doors may have opened in the past.

"Here, it is undisputed that plaintiff had a full view of the doors when she approached the store and entered through the doors next to Brian at the same time two other people were exiting," Justice Spence wrote. "A reasonable person in plaintiff’s situation would have perceived the width of the opening of the doors and waited for sufficient clearance before passing through them. 

"Neither of the exceptions to the open and obvious doctrine apply, as plaintiff admitted that she was not distracted, and she was not deliberately encountering a known or obvious danger."

He later added: "More generally, as the trial court observed, it would have been a significant burden to have stores ensure that their doors operated in a way that was consistent with a customer’s subjective assumptions regarding the manner, speed, or width of opening."

Illinois Second District Appellate Court Case No. 2019 IL App (2d) 180578-U.

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22nd Judicial Circuit of McHenry County Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Illinois Second District Appellate Court

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