At issue in Reed v. Galaxy Holdings, 394 Ill.App.3d 39, 914 N.E.2d 632 (Ill.App. 1 Dist.,2009), was whether a business had a duty to remove the water that had accumulated on the floor in the entryway of a laundromat, where the puddle of water caused the plaintiff to slip and fall, resulting in serious injuries. On the date that the plaintiff was injured, it was drizzling outside and an employee of the laundromat placed a mat on the floor in the vestibule between the first and second doors and also placed a mat on the floor just outside the second door. As the plaintiff entered into the vestibule area from the outside, she slipped and fell on a puddle of water as she stepped off the first mat and onto the bare vestibule floor. The Court concluded that summary judgment was properly granted in favor of the defendant: In this case, plaintiff failed to offer any evidence allowing a fact-finder to find that the puddle of water was anything other than a natural accumulation or that defendant caused or aggravated the accumulation of water. Plaintiff admits that it was raining on the day of the incident and that the water was tracked in from the outside. Plaintiff also failed to present evidence establishing that her injury resulted from a defect in the design, construction, or maintenance of the tile floor or that the premises were not properly illuminated. Plaintiff did testify that defendant placed two mats at the Laundromat’s entranceway on the day of the incident. Allowing saturated mats to remain in an entranceway does not by itself, however, transform the tracked in water into an unnatural accumulation nor suggest that defendant aggravated the water’s natural accumulation. It is surprising that the Court extended the rule of “natural accumulation” to apply to water that had been tracked by patrons into the premises. That the Court applied this rule to water that had accumulated inside the business is unfortunate since it makes it more difficult for injured customers to recover for their pain and suffering.
Image via Wikipedia Eric Turkewitz at the New York Personal Injury Law Blog recently noted that a New York court wisely banned the use of social security numbers in subpoenas: (Y)esterday, in the New York Law Journal, (no link) comes the story of Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow of Nassau County refusing to sign subpoenas in a medical malpractice case because the social security numbers were on it. In an interview with the NYLJ, the judge said that he gets papers with Social Security numbers on a weekly basis but this was “the first time I had a chance to do anything about it” because ordering the subpoena would have placed it in the public record. Eric Turkewitz has blogged about client privacy and court records in the past and raises a very valid concern in regard to social security numbers. This is an issue that all lawyers should keep in mind when filing papers with the court on behalf of their clients. This also touches on a broader issue: Any information contained in documents filed with the court has the potential to haunt clients down the road. When clients choose to file a lawsuit, they must understand that they are putting themselves out there in the public record. For example, a client who alleged in a Complaint in a personal injury case that he suffered from severe back injuries as a result of a car accident might later find that a future employer learned of his injury after reviewing the court filings. Likewise, in divorce proceedings, court records likely contain all sorts of sensitive, private information and potentially embarrassing information that is readily available to the public, should anyone care to obtain the records. And, in Cook County, Illinois, judges refuse to seal divorce records unless the case involves a minor. In this modern world, where public records can be easily accessed and quickly distributed using the Internet, it is important that both attorneys and their clients keep these risks in mind and be wary of unnecessarily including sensitive and confidential information in documents filed with the court.
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