Cook County Record

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Appeals court: No way woman can prove Chicago roller rink knew candy on floor; Trip-and-fall lawsuit tossed


By Karen Kidd | Sep 16, 2019

| Morguefile - Edumigue

 A state appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a woman's lawsuit against owners and an employee of a Chicago roller rink over allegations the woman broke her back after tripping on a piece of hard candy she claims was left on the roller skating floor.

An Illinois First District Appellate Court three-justice panel concluded a Cook County judge had properly granted summary judgment in the case after the plaintiff, Debra Haslett, failed to prove defendants breached their duty to maintain a safe skating rink.

"In this respect we first note that despite her repeated claims that she fell over a piece of hard candy, the plaintiff failed to present any evidence whatsoever of the existence or presence of any such hazard on the rink floor," the appellate justices said in their opinion issued Aug. 14. "It is well settled, that at a bare minimum, a plaintiff who claims to have been injured by a hazard on the defendant’s premises must prove the existence of the hazard itself."

Appellate Justice James G. Fitzgerald Smith wrote the court's opinion. Justices Nathaniel Howse Jr. and Cynthia Y. Cobbs concurred.

Haslett filed her original suit in August 2015 against United Skates of America Inc., and rink maintenance worked Milton Torrance. Haslett alleged she suffered a broken back and other injuries in a fall July 2014 while skating at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park and Family Entertainment Center. Haslett alleged the park's owner, United Skates and Torrance failed to maintain a safe skating surface, which led to her injuries.

Two months later, Haslett added Chicago City Skating LLC, as a defendant, according to the background portion of the appellate court's opinion. The following February, Haslett filed her second amended complaint, which alleged only negligence against all three defendants.

In their answer, the defendants in the case argued assumption of risk and comparative negligence defenses.

During deposition Haslett alleged she fell because she rolled over a piece of hard candy. Haslett said during deposition she didn't know she'd rolled over a piece of candy until a family member later found it on her skate.

"The plaintiff also admitted that she never told any of the rink employees that she rolled or fell over something while skating but averred that she failed to do so because she was in too much pain," the justices said in the opinion. "She also denied ever having told any of the employees at the rink that she fell because a 'boy cut her off' while skating."

In March 2018, Cook County Circuit Court Judge John H. Ehrlich granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding the rink's owners and maintenance worker had no actual or constructive notice of any hazard present on the rink floor.

“The plaintiff hasn’t provided any other information to indicate that there was something there and that someone had complained about it, for example to the proprietor prior to [the plaintiff's] fall, which would be necessary to establish some sort of actual notice on their part,” Ehrlich said in his order dismissing the case.

Haslett has been represented in the action by attorney John Xydakis, of Chicago.

The defendants have been represented by the firm of Pretzel & Stouffer, of Chicago.

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Cook County Circuit Court Illinois First District Appellate Court Law Office of John S. Xydakis Pretzel & Stouffer

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