Where there is no evidence that a defendant in a slip and fall spill or his servant created the hazardous condition, a plaintiff must demonstrate actual or constructive notice of the hazard’s presence.

The 1st District Appellate Court affirmed the decision of Cook County Circuit Judge John H. Ehrlich.

Debra Haslett fell and injured her back while roller skating at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Family Entertainment Center, which was co-owned, managed, and operated by United Skates of America Inc. and Chicago City Skating LLC.

Haslett filed suit against United Skates, Chicago City Skating and Milton Torrence, the on-duty assistant manager of the rink at the time of the accident. Haslett alleged violations of the Roller Skating Rink Safety Act and negligence.

Haslett claimed that she fell because a piece of hard candy was allowed to sit on the rink, that it should not have been permitted on the floor and should have been promptly removed to maintain a safe skating surface. Haslett did not make this claim at the time she was injured, but stated that she found pieces of the crushed candy on her skates on returning home from the hospital.

Neither food nor drink were permitted on the rink floor. The rink had three “floor guards” on duty at the time, whose job was to patrol the rink floor and make sure it was free of hazards.

Neither Haslett nor anyone else reported noticing hard candy on the floor. Further, hard candy such as that was not sold at the rink. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that there was no evidence of hard candy at the rink or that they had actual or constructive notice that there was a danger on the floor given that there was no evidence about how long it had been there. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, finding that Haslett could not prove notice. Haslett appealed.

On appeal, Haslett argued that the trial court erred in finding that there were no material issues of fact. Haslett asserted that she did not need to prove notice because she was making a claim for negligence not premises liability.

The appellate court disagreed, noting that notice is only excused when the hazardous condition was created by the defendant or his servants. As no evidence was presented that hard candy was sold or distributed at any point by any of the defendants, Haslett had to prove notice.

Haslett presented no evidence as to how long the candy that caused her fall had been on the floor. The appellate court emphasized that no witness, including the plaintiff, testified to seeing hard candy on the floor at the time of the accident and that the only evidence it caused the accident was the plaintiff finding some on her skate wheel when she returned home, three days later, which does not establish that the candy was either on the rink floor or the cause of the accident. As such, the appellate court found that the trial court had not erred in granting summary judgment against her.

The appellate court, therefore, affirmed the circuit court’s decision.

Debra Haslett v. United Skates of America Inc., et al.

2019 IL App (1st) 181337

Writing for the court: Justice James Fitzgerald Smith

Concurring: Justices Nathaniel R. Howse Jr. and Cynthia Y. Cobbs

Released: Jan. 2, 2020