Appeals court: Woman’s suit OK questioning if handicap space painted on pavement caused slip-and-fall

A state appeals panel has revived a lawsuit brought by a woman who alleges she slipped and fell at a Lakeview gas station on an icy patch atop a handicap symbol emblazoned on pavement, which she said was designed in such a way that it would become unnaturally slippery and dangerous.

Although the case was tossed out in Cook County Circuit Court, a three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court reversed the decision, ruling that there is a real question of whether the property owners appropriately maintained their handicapped sign.

The judgment and opinion, delivered by Justice John Griffin, received concurrence from justices Mary Mikva and Carl Walker.

“The evidence presents at least a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the defendants timely repainted the handicap symbol and refreshed the slip-resistant additive in a way necessary to make the surface reasonably safe and suitable for pedestrian traffic and customers walking in and out of defendants gas station store,” the court opinion read.

The case dates back to Jan. 7, 2015, when plaintiff Cynthia Bailey injured her knee after allegedly slipping at a gas station in the 800 block of West Irving Park Road.

She slipped on a handicap parking space symbol that was painted on the asphalt directly in front of the store. After she notified the gas station, the suit alleges, an employee reviewed surveillance video, took pictures of the scene and made an incident report, the court stated.

Then on July 1, 2016, Bailey filed a lawsuit against Graham Enterprises Inc. and Red Crown Holdings LLC, alleging the businesses were liable for her injuries.

She included testimony from an expert witness, Daniel Robson, in her suit. Robson inspected the scene, then retested the grip of the ground at the time of the fall. He re-created the parking space in question by using Sherwin-Williams Pro-Park traffic paint and H&C SharkGrip slip-resistant additive, which is believed to have been used at the gas station.

His research found the paint used for the handicap signs needed to be refreshed every 90 days to remain slip resistant and concluded in his opinion that the symbol was unreasonably slippery.

But the Cook County court found his tests inadmissible, stating, “all we are left with is a natural accumulation of slush for which the defendant’s owed no duty to remove.”

In reversing the ruling, the appellate panel stated that Robson could “competently testify” based on his experience. Had there been a natural accumulation of slush, the court stated, Bailey still could find the property owners liable “if the accumulation of ice and snow becomes unnatural due to the defective design or construction, or improper maintenance of the landowner’s premises, which are under his control.”

This article was first published by Cook County Record.

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