Illinois Court Considers Liability in Mall Slip and Fall

When someone slips and falls in a public place in Illinois such as a mall, in order to prevail in a personal injury lawsuit, the person who fell must establish that the owner of the property was somehow responsible for the fall. Sometimes this can be a difficult proposition, as the plaintiff in Ishoo v. General Growth Properties, Inc., 2012 WL 933383, recently learned.

On the day of her fall, the plaintiff in Ishoo was working as a sales representative at the make up counter at Neiman Marcus. She took a break to purchase a cup of coffee from Starbucks, and as she was walking there, she slipped and fell on a wet substance on the floor. As a result of the fall, she injured her right shoulder.

She later filed this personal injury lawsuit alleging that the owners of the mall were responsible for her injuries because they either knew or should have known that a wet substance had accumulated on the floor and posed a hazard to shoppers and others walking through the mall.

The Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, explained what was required in order for the plaintiff to prove negligence on behalf of the defendants:

To establish negligence on the part of the defendants, the plaintiff need only bring forth facts that her fall was caused by a liquid substance on the floor attributable to the defendants. Liabilityon the part of the defendants may arise if (1) one or more defendants is directly responsible for the liquid substance on the floor or (2) the defendants had actual or constructive notice of the liquid substance on the floor…(T)his appeals turns on whether there is any evidence that directly proves, or gives rise to a reasonable inference, that the presence of the liquid substance on the floor is tied to one or more of the defendants…

Unfortunately for the injured plaintiff, after reviewing the facts and applying the relevant legal standards to the fact of the case, the court concluded that the plaintiff had failed to show that the defendants had actual or constructive notice of the wet substance on the floor:

(U)nder the facts of this case, actual notice can only be established by a showing that the housekeeping staff “squeegeed” cleaning solution from the escalator on to the floor. As we have already concluded, no facts exist that the activities of housekeeping staff were responsible for the liquid substance on the mall floor. It follows from the absence of such facts that no actual notice on the part of the defendants of the presence of the liquid on the floor can be shown…

Constructive notice can only be shown where the dangerous condition is shown to exist for a sufficient length of time to impute knowledge of its existence to the defendants…Here, there are no facts that show the length of time the liquid substance was on the floor. While the plaintiff claims that the liquid substance was “squeegeed” on to the floor between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., nothing in the record supports that claim. Constructive notice cannot be shown on the record before us.

Accordingly, the court held that the lower court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants and dismissed her lawsuit against them. So, unfortunately for the plaintiff in this case, she was unable to recover compensation for her shoulder injury. Although the result may seem unfair, sometimes the facts don’t always support a favorable verdict for an injured party in a personal injury lawsuit.

The Ankin Law ( handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. You can reach the firm by calling (312) 600-0000.