In Schade v. Clausius, the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District considered an appeal in a negligence action in which the plaintiff alleged that she suffered injuries while aboard the defendant’s boat. On July 4, 2010, the plaintiff was on a boat that had sailed to a spot in Lake Michigan and anchored along with three other boats. According to her complaint, the plaintiff slipped and fell when she was walking toward a group of people on the boat. She asserted a claim for negligence against the defendants, claiming that she slipped as a result of accumulated water on the boat deck. She also alleged that she suffered serious and permanent injuries.
In their response to the complaint, the defendants denied these allegations and claimed that the plaintiff failed to exercise appropriate care regarding the open and obvious condition. Specifically, they alleged that the plaintiff failed to wear proper footwear and should have expected a boat’s deck to have water on it. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and argued that the plaintiff could not make a prima facie case for negligence against the defendants. In her deposition, she testified that she fell while she was walking on the swim platform at the rear of the boat. This contradicted the allegations in her complaint, which stated that she slipped on the deck. Noting this discrepancy, the defendants stated that the swim platform was being used for diving by guests on the boat at the time the accident occurred.
In opposing the motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff contended that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the accumulated water on the deck was an open and obvious condition, considering that the plaintiff testified that she had no meaningful experience with boats and could not see the water on the swim platform. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, finding that the accumulated water was an open and obvious danger.
On appeal, the intermediary court first noted that according to maritime law, boat owners owe passengers a duty of exercising reasonable care. Reviewing the record, the appellate court then concluded that there were no genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the defendants created a dangerous condition in how they decided to use the diving platform. They also concluded that the accumulated water and the potential to slip on the swim platform were open and obvious dangers that did not require a specific warning from the defendants. Accordingly, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s grant of summary judgment and affirmed.
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