Judge rejects summary judgment motion in slip-and-fall complaint against Hardee's

By David Hutton | Oct 31, 2017

BENTON — A federal judge has denied a request for summary judgment by the owners of a Hardee’s franchise in a slip-and-fall case.

The order was written by U.S. District Judge Staci M. Yandle.

According to an amended complaint filed July 20, 2016, Georgia Gurley alleged negligence against North Star Foods LLC after she slipped and fell on landscaping rocks that were scattered across a sidewalk outside a Hardee’s restaurant.

According to court records, Gurley had visited the restaurant on several other occasions, and during a deposition, she initially testified she could not recall seeing rocks on the sidewalk during any of her previous visits.

Gurley later testified that she had seen rocks out of the landscaping beds and on the sidewalks.

“Under Illinois law, businesses have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition to avoid injuries to their customers,” Yandle wrote in the order.

Yandle also noted that when a customer is injured in a fall as the result of slipping on something out of the ordinary, a business can be held liable. The visitor would have to prove the materials were in the place as a result of negligence of the business; the business knew of the issue by actual or constructive notice.

While there was no evidence the restaurant knew about the rocks on the sidewalk, Yandle noted that the main issue was whether North Star had constructive notice.

Citing Piotrowski v. Menard Inc., Yandle noted constructive notice can be established if the condition exists for a period of time, it should have been discovered during routine maintenance of the property.

Gurley did not offer evidence that could establish a timeline to determine how long the rocks had been on the sidewalk.

Moreover, restaurant management couldn’t say when the sidewalks were last checked for obstructions.

Gurley alleged that North Star had constructive notice that the rocks were falling from the beds to the sidewalk because it would refill the planters with a fresh supply of rocks, but did nothing to correct the problem.

“There is at least some evidence of recurring escape of rocks from the landscape beds,” Yandle concluded. “Therefore, whether North Star had constructive knowledge of a potentially dangerous condition is a disputed issue of material fact precluding summary judgment.”

As a result, North Star’s motion for summary judgment was denied.

Case number 16-CV-928-SMY-RJD

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