The Fifth District Appellate Court determined that a St. Clair County Circuit Court properly denied a plaintiff’s petition for writ of certiorari in a personal injury suit alleging she fell at the Du Quoin State Fair.

Justice Bruce D. Stewart delivered the opinion affirming Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn’s decision out of the St. Clair County Circuit Court. The decision was posted on Feb 19.

“Since the Illinois Supreme Court has allowed a narrow exception to the general rule that Court of Claims’ decisions are not subject to judicial review by holding that certiorari is available when the court of claims has deprived a party of his or her constitutional rights to due process, but plaintiff’s writ was properly denied where the record showed she was afforded her due process rights,” Stewart wrote.

On April 9, 2009, plaintiff Robin D. Hastings originally filed a complaint in the Illinois Court of Claims against the State of Illinois, Du Quoin State Fair and The Department of Agriculture alleging she was injured when she slipped and fell on an “extremely slick concrete floor” while entering a women’s bathhouse at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds on Aug. 21, 2008.

It had rained earlier that day and Hastings allegedly wore flip-flops to the fair. She walked through the wet grass and then on a wet sidewalk toward the bathhouse, according to the court record. When she stepped into the entrance alcove, she slipped as she reached to open the door, the opinion states.

Hastings alleges the entrance area was more slippery than the sidewalk, causing her to fall and fracture her right kneecap.

Hastings retained an engineer expert, who testified that the differences between the two surfaces “created a dangerous condition that caused the plaintiff’s fall,” and said the State of Illinois used “poor judgment” when it failed to follow the proper criteria when paving the walkways, the opinion states.

The expert added that the wear on the concrete from 20 years of foot traffic and scheduled cleanings created a hazardous condition.

In her complaint, Hastings claimed her fall resulted from the defendants’ failure to inspect, maintain, repair and clean the walking surfaces, providing a walking surface that was too slick for entryway use and failure to warn of the slick and dangerous condition.

On April 10, 2012, the Court of Claims granted summary judgment in favor of the Department of Agriculture. The Department argued that Hastings could not establish that the defendant had notice of the alleged dangerous condition. The defendant also argued that the action was barred by the 10-year statute of repose for construction-related claims.

The Court of Claims denied the plaintiff’s request for a rehearing. The case then moved to the St. Clair County Circuit Court, which dismissed the plaintiff’s petition for a writ of certiorari on Oct. 2, 2013.

McGlynn concluded that Hastings “had a meaningful opportunity to be heard and was, therefore, afforded procedural due process rights,” the opinion states. Hastings appealed the judgment, which was affirmed by the Fifth District.

Stewart explained that the Court of Claims is the exclusive forum for claims against the State. According to the Court of Claims Act, the court’s decisions are generally not subject to judicial review.

In this case, the appellate court held that Hastings was provided adequate notice and an appropriate opportunity to be heard, meaning her petition for writ of certiorari was properly denied.

Furthermore, the appellate court held that questions regarding whether the Court of Claims properly granted summary judgment are not reviewable.

Because Hastings was provided with the opportunity to reply to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the Court of Claims considered her response and her request for a rehearing, she was appropriately afforded due process, Stewart wrote.

“Therefore, the circuit court properly dismissed the certiorari petition, and we must affirm the judgment of the circuit court,” the opinion stated.

Justice Judy Cates and James R. Moore concurred in the decision.

Edward J. Szewczyk of Callis, Papa, Hale & Szewczyk, P.C., in Granite City represented Hastings.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan of Chicago represented the defendants.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 12-MR-303

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