Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder granted Collinsville Park’s motion to dismiss a personal injury suit, concluding that the plaintiff failed to sufficiently show that it owed her a duty to clear naturally accumulated water and mud from its premises.
Plaintiff Terry L. Meyers filed suit against the Collinsville Area Recreation District (CARD) and the Collinsville Extreme Club last June.
In her two-count complaint, Meyers claimed she was watching her daughter participate in a fast pitch softball tournament on June 30, 2013, when she injured herself from the muddy conditions on the way to the restroom. She alleged the tournament had been postponed the day before due to torrential downpours. As a result, the defendants allegedly attempted to make the playing fields playable and resumed the games.
Meyers blamed the defendants for contributing to her injuries, saying they failed to undertake the same kind of reparative conduct for patrons on the premises as it did for participants in the tournament and took no action to remedy defects.
CARD filed a motion to dismiss Count I of the complaint through attorney Kara Jones of Carbondale on Aug. 18. It argued Meyers admitted that there were downpours of rain the previous day, resulting in water accumulation and mud that it did not owe a duty to remove.
In Meyers’s Dec. 2 response, she argued that CARD knew the “defective” condition could be dangerous.
“In recognition of that danger, it put down drying agents on portions it knew would be used but not on others, despite such knowledge,” her response stated. “That was a conscious disregard or indifference for the consequences when ‘the known safety of other persons was involved.’”
Meyers also filed a sur-response on Dec. 15, saying the question was not whether the accumulated water was natural or unnatural, but whether the condition causing her alleged injury rose to the level of willful and wanton conduct.
“[A] landowner who takes no action to correct a condition even though it was informed or has knowledge of the potentially dangerous condition, may be liable for willful and wanton conduct,” the sur-response stated.
“CARD undertook to ameliorate, fix or otherwise take care of the dangerous condition of its fields in recognition of the dangerous conditions posed by having its players play on premises that would be untreated. Yet, armed with such knowledge, it failed to recognize the exact same potential and dangerous conditions for the players, patrons or any others that would be on the other direct portions of the premises and took no action at all,” it continued.
In response, CARD again stated that it did not owe a duty to Meyers.
“”[T]he ‘voluntary undertaking’ alleged by the plaintiff was the placement of materials to remove accumulated water on the playing fields. Any alleged ‘voluntary undertaking’ was limited to this area of the premises. The plaintiff does not allege that the defendant undertook any duty to remove naturally accumulated water or mud from the area where the plaintiff fell. In fact, they have affirmatively asserted that no such actions were undertaken,” CARD responded.
Crowder granted CARD’s motion to dismiss Count I on Feb. 9, concluding that the plaintiff failed to make clear claims alleging duty and a breach of alleged duty.
“The general rule is that a landowner does not have a duty to remove accumulations of elements like water (or snow or ice) where it is accumulated naturally,” Crowder wrote.
“Plaintiff’s complaint primarily faults defendant for failure to undertake to place drying agents or materials."
Crowder gave Meyers the opportunity to file an amended complaint.
Earlier, Collinsville Extreme Fast Pitch Club answered the complaint through attorney Stephen J. Moore of St. Louis, denying the allegations. It claimed the plaintiff caused her own injuries by failing to see what she should have seen, failing to take care and maintain a careful lookout and failing to exercise due care for her own safety.
It also responded that any alleged injuries were caused by a natural accumulation of water.
Meyers sought a judgment of more than $100,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.
D. Jeffrey Ezra of Ezra & Associates in Collinsville represents Meyers.
Madison County Circuit Court case number 14-L-922