Piotrowski v. Menard, Inc. – Trip-and-Fall Injury Lawsuit Weighed by 7th Circuit
Gregg Hollander | December 16, 2016 | Premise Liability and Slip and Fall
Trip-and-fall injuries can occur on a myriad of different walking surfaces, and are usually caused by an uneven walkway or some type of non-obvious obstruction or hole. These type of incidents can result in severe and sometimes disabling injuries, so it’s important to explore all potential legal options that could assist victims with medical bills and compensate for pain and suffering.
Still, as our Boca Raton injury lawyers can explain, the fact that an injury occurred is usually not in and of itself enough to secure compensation. There must be evidence that the negligence of the property owner or property manager caused the fall that resulted in injury. Property owners have a duty of care to those invited on their site, especially if it is for business purposes. Companies that invite customers on site for the benefit of the company have a responsibility to regularly inspect the site and to keep it reasonably safe of potential hazards. Where such hazards exist and cannot be immediately addressed, customers are owed a warning.
In the recent case of Piotrowski v. Menard, Inc., the assertion was that plaintiff tripped and fell on a couple of small rocks that she did not see in the store parking lot. She fell hard on the concrete and sustained serious injuries. She alleged the store owner was liable for her injuries. But she had a tough time proving that it was the negligence of the store that caused her fall. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently reviewed.
According to court records, plaintiff went with her husband to shop at a home improvement store in Illinois. While walking in the parking lot toward their vehicle, plaintiff stepped on one or two small walks she hadn’t seen and fell – very hard. She described the rocks as oval-shaped, larger than marbles. When she fell, she was in an area outside the entrance of the store that was used for vehicle drop-offs. Approximately 50 feet away, there was a large concrete planner with a small tree and bush in the center, surrounded by decorative river rocks. The store sold these river rocks as well. The manager testified these rocks were added whenever the planter started to “look a little bare.”
Plaintiff alleged the rocks on which she fell were from this planter. Children had been seen playing in this area, and she speculated they had taken rocks out and either dropped or thrown them in the area where she fell.
The manager and employees testified that they walked the store’s premises – including the parking lot – every day. It was part of his duties as a general manager and he also had other workers designated to check the parking lots at routine intervals throughout the day, checking for any possible hazards.
Plaintiff’s injury lawsuit against the store was later decided in favor of defendant store in a summary judgment handed down by the trial court. On appeal, the 7th Circuit affirmed. The central question was whether the store’s negligence caused plaintiff’s fall. The trial court had found there was no triable issue of fact as to whether the placement of the rocks on which plaintiff fell was due to defendant’s negligence. Under Illinois law, plaintiffs have to prove the substance was either put there by defendant, or defendant business had actual or constructive notice of the substance. This is a similar standard to that which is followed in Florida. In this case, the court ruled, plaintiff presented insufficient evidence on these points.
Of course, it’s important to point out every case is different and should be weighed in an attorney consultation on its own merits – especially if the injuries in question were severe. If you have been injured in a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall in Boca Raton, our injury lawyers can help.
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Piotrowski v. Menard, Inc., Nov. 29, 2016, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.