Alcorn v. Stepzinski, 3-88-0717

CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois
Citation185 Ill.App.3d 1,540 N.E.2d 823,132 Ill.Dec. 901
Decision Date08 June 1989
Docket NumberNo. 3-88-0717,3-88-0717
Parties, 132 Ill.Dec. 901 Marilee L. and Robert M. ALCORN, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Josephine L. STEPZINSKI, Defendant-Appellee.

Page 823

540 N.E.2d 823
185 Ill.App.3d 1, 132 Ill.Dec. 901
Marilee L. and Robert M. ALCORN, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
Josephine L. STEPZINSKI, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 3-88-0717.
Appellate Court of Illinois,
Third District.
June 8, 1989.

[185 Ill.App.3d 2] Robert C. Strodel and Lindsay W. Wright, Stodel, Kingery & Durree, Assoc., Peoria, for Marilee L. and Robert M. Alcorn.

Robert D. Jackson, John A. Kendrick, Westervelt, Johnson, Nicoll & Keller, Peoria, for Josephine L. Stepzinski.

Justice McLAREN delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiffs appeal from a grant of summary judgment entered in favor of defendant. Plaintiffs contend that there were 18 material issues of fact which precluded summary judgment. We disagree and affirm.

On February 7, 1987, defendant was washing her car in her driveway, and plaintiff, Marilee Alcorn, walked by. They began discussing some silk flowers which plaintiff was to arrange for defendant in a brass planter. Defendant asked plaintiff, "Would you like to look at this container?" and plaintiff replied, "[L]et me see it." Defendant then proceeded through the garage doorway into the kitchen. She went out onto the porch, got the planter, closed the porch door, and returned to the kitchen doorway with the planter in hand. At that point, she saw plaintiff enter through the garage doorway. Defendant did not know plaintiff had followed her into the house and was surprised to see plaintiff entering the hallway [185 Ill.App.3d 3] through the doorway.

The descriptive characteristics of the hallway connecting the garage and kitchen have been clearly elaborated. Photographs

Page 824

[132 Ill.Dec. 902] of the hallway have been submitted as exhibits. The entrance into the hallway from the garage contains one, separate step and the floor of the hallway. The stairway to the basement is immediately adjacent to the door to the garage and along the left wall of the hallway as a person enters the premises from the garage. A door has never been installed in front of the basement stairway, and, therefore, the stairway remains open. The floor of the hallway is covered by a light-colored, no-wax Congoleum linoleum. The area of the hallway floor directly in front of the stairs has dimensions of 3 feet 2 inches (38 inches) in width and 4 feet 5 inches (53 inches) in length. This area does not constitute a separate landing for the basement stairs. The surface of the hallway floor is on a single, integrated plane proceeding to the kitchen.

Defendant testified that plaintiff entered the hallway, placed her right foot on or near the throw rug, and positioned her left foot approximately two inches over the edge of the top step of the stairway. The left foot was placed upon a metal strip on the top step of the stairway. Thereafter, plaintiff lost her balance and fell down the basement stairway immediately to her left, suffering injuries. The rug did not slip or move preceding the fall. Defendant did not give any warnings about the basement stairway to plaintiff as plaintiff entered through the garage door.

The lighting conditions in the hallway permitted an individual to become aware of the presence of the stairway. Immediately opposite the stairway, a door with a glass window had been installed which permits entrance into a glass enclosed porch. The light from the porch shines into the basement stairway. Josephine Stepzinski related that the hallway was well lit at the time of the occurrence. Mary Osborne, a neighbor, entered the hallway and proceeded to the basement shortly after the occurrence. Mary Osborne testified that the visibility in the area was "all right" and "bright enough to see."

Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. The affidavit of defendant and the depositions of the plaintiffs, defendant, and Mary Osborne were annexed as exhibits. The court granted summary judgment finding "[t]hat the undisputed facts show Defendant had no duty to warn and no duty to enclose the stairway; and they do not support negligent distraction of Plaintiff, MARILEE ALCORN, by Defendant."

The plaintiffs raise 18 issues contending the issues are of material[185 Ill.App.3d 4] fact. Rather than address each issue on its merits or lack thereof, we will address the findings contained in the judgment order. We find that the 18 issues fail to raise material issues of fact. In this case, defendant is and was the only competent witness to present testimony as to how the incident occurred. Plaintiff, Marilee, experienced retrograde amnesia and could recall nothing concerning the events of the entire day of February 7, 1987. Furthermore, no expert testimony was submitted to suggest some danger or hazard beyond the ken of an ordinary person. For the reasons stated below, the trial court was correct when it found that the facts were undisputed and concluded that as a matter of law there was no negligent distraction by defendant nor duties extant.

In Econo Lease v. Noffsinger (1976), 63 Ill.2d 390, 393, 349 N.E.2d 1, our supreme court stated:

"A motion for summary judgment will be granted if the pleadings, depositions, admissions and affidavits on file reveal that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment or decree as a matter of law. (Ill.Rev.Stat.1975, ch. 110, par. 57(3); Carruthers v. B.C. Christopher & Co., 57 Ill.2d 376 [313 N.E.2d 457].) A reviewing court must reverse an order granting summary judgment if it is determined that a material question of fact does exist."

It is also noted, as stated in Peltz v. Chicago Transit Authority (1975), 31 Ill.App.3d 948, 951, 335 N.E.2d 74, that:

"Merely alleging that a genuine issue of material fact exists without presenting any statement of fact to contradict the

Page 825

[132 Ill.Dec. 903] defendants' version, does not thereby create such an issue. * * *

If there are no such facts in dispute, inferences may be drawn from the undisputed facts to determine if the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. If no fair-minded person could draw different inferences from these facts, then there is no triable issue and the motion for summary judgment should be granted. (Southland Corp. v. Village of Hoffman Estates (1970), 130 Ill.App.2d 311, 264 N.E.2d 451.) This does not prejudice the party against whom judgment is granted since the same undisputed facts would support entry of a judgment at the conclusion of that party's case."

The court in Doherty v. Kill (1986), 140 Ill.App.3d 158, 162, 94 Ill.Dec. 630, 488 N.E.2d 629 set forth:

"In determining whether an issue of material fact exists, the evidence must be viewed in a light most favorable to the [185 Ill.App.3d 5] nonmovant. * * * Even if there is some evidence from which differing inferences might be drawn, this is not significant so long as there is a reasonable basis in substantial evidence to support the inference that is drawn. Manahan v. Daily News-Tribune (1977), 50 Ill.App.3d 9, 12 [8 Ill.Dec. 659], 365 N.E.2d 1045."

The Appellate Court for the Second District in Whitman v. Lopatkiewicz (1987), 152 Ill.App.3d 332, 105 Ill.Dec. 374, 504 N.E.2d 243, affirmed the trial court's grant of...

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