In 2017, the Appellate Court decided the case of Allen v. Cam Girls LLC, 2017 IL App (1st) 163340 (Dec. 26, 2017). In the Allen case, the Plaintiff walked across a parking lot of a strip mall. There was snow and perhaps some ice. As she walked, she slipped and fell fracturing her ankle. At the time of the fall, there was a contract in place with a company to remove snow, ice and debris from sidewalks, walkways and parking lots on a timely basis. So far, this case seems simple enough.
But this is where things get sticky. In her deposition, the Defense attorney asked the Plaintiff a simple question: “what did you slip on?” Was it a patch of ice underneath the snow? Was it the snow itself that was slippery? The Plaintiff answered that she assumed it was the ice, but was not sure.
And that was the problem. This Plaintiff did not know how she fell. In order to succeed on a case, a Plaintiff needs to know, with 100% certainty, what caused him or her to fall. The Appellate Court said “Allen did not see whether she fell on ice, so she cannot establish a causal link between the alleged unnatural ice and her fall beyond mere speculation.” Allen v. Cam Girls LLC, 2017 IL App (1st) 163340 (Dec. 26, 2017). Since the Plaintiff could not say with absolute certainty what she slipped on, she lost her case.
This might seem like a harsh result, this Plaintiff probably did slip on some ice or snow that was not plowed well. But in order for a legal system to work like it should, we can only hold people responsible for things that they did that actually caused an injury.
As we are in the midst of winter, and what seems like snow falling every other day, perhaps the moral of this story is to know, with certainty, what caused you to fall.