Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Sep. 25, 2013, 5:15pm

Eckert Orchards Inc. denies the allegations brought against it and demanded a jury trial in a customer’s lawsuit claiming she injured herself after falling in a hole in the self-pick fields.

Nicole Haas filed the lawsuit on Aug. 1, claiming she was looking for fruit at the Millstadt orchard in October 2011 when she stepped in an indiscernible hole and was hurt.

According to the complaint, Eckert Orchards has a produce store but encourages customers to go into the self-pick fields and choose fresh fruit for themselves. Haas claims the owners of the orchard failed to warn people there may be some holes that are difficult to see while walking through the orchard.

Eckert Orchards included affirmative defenses in its Sept. 11 answer to the complaint. stating that any damages the plaintiff suffered were due to her own negligence, blaming her for failing to keep a proper lookout and exercising ordinary care for her own safety.

Eckert Orchards further argues that the hole was an “open and obvious condition.”

Because Eckert Orchards claims the woman is at fault for her own negligence, it requests to be barred from recovery and dismissed from the case.

Haas seeks a judgment of more than $50,000.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot scheduled a mandatory status conference for Nov. 25 at 9 a.m.

John P. Cunningham represents Eckert Orchards, Inc.

Kevin Boyne of Belleville represents Haas.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 13-L-401

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