Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Summary Judgment and Dismissal of Product Liability Case

On Jan. 17, 2011, Susan Buckel was at Villa Olivia, a ski hill in the far west Chicago suburban town of Bartlett, Ill. She had purchased a ticket to snow tube on a hill, but as she moved to sit down on the tube, a sharp object that was part of the tube implanted itself in the ground and caused her to come to a sudden stop.

While Buckel was stopped, another snow tube struck her from behind and injured her.  On Jan. 4, 2013, Buckel filed a lawsuit against Villa Olivia, Tube Pro Inc. “unknown snow tube manufacturer” and “unknown owners and non-record claimants.” Buckel later voluntarily dismissed Villa Olivia as a party defendant.

In the lawsuit, Buckel alleged that her tube was defective and that this defect caused it to suddenly stop on the hill, endangering her and proximately causing her injuries.  She alleged negligence against Tube Pro, claiming that it “negligently designed, manufactured, distributed and sold the snow tube equipment without appropriate safeguarding and an adequate warning label.”

Tube Pro answered that it was a snow tube manufacturer and admitted to manufacturing some of the snow tubes used at Villa Olivia but emphasized that it had no knowledge regarding the truth or falsity of Buckel’s claim that the defective snow tube had been one of theirs.

In a discovery deposition, a witness testified that Villa Olivia used several snow tube manufacturers. Buckel, when questioned at deposition, admitted that she had not looked at the markings on the snow tube at the time of her injuries, but concluded from looking at pictures where she said she “can kind of make out certain letters . . . I would clearly say it was a T or a P or a B or what not.”

Tube Pro moved for summary judgment, arguing that Buckel failed to establish that it was the manufacturer of the snow tube in question. The trial judge granted the motion finding Buckel could not “meaningfully identify the specific snow tube” involved and “does not justify an inference of a probability that [Tube Pro] was the manufacturer.”  Buckel took this appeal.

On appeal, Buckel argued that Tube Pro was the most recent manufacturer and pointed to testimony stating that “more defendant’s snow tubes than [other manufacturer’s] snow tubes were being used at Villa Olivia in January of 2011.”

Tube Pro replied that Buckel failed to provide any evidence that the allegedly defective snow tube was manufactured by the company and that without being able to identify the tube from other manufacturer’s tubes, produce the tube itself or produce photographs of the tube, Buckel failed to present evidence of a critical element in her claim.

The appeals panel agreed finding that Buckel could not prove a prima facie product-liability case because she did not observe the manufactured product at the time of her injury, and no evidence has been produced that the tube in question was manufactured by Tube Pro.

Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the trial judge’s decision granting summary judgment and disposing of this case.

Susan Buckel v. Tube Pro, Inc., 2016 IL App (1st) 150427-U, March 31, 2016.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling product liability defect cases, pharmaceutical defect lawsuits, mass tort cases, catastrophic injury cases and car crash injury cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Bolingbrook, Franklin Park, Calumet City, Harvey, Rolling Meadows, Skokie, South Chicago Heights, South Holland, Stone Park, Tinley Park, Westchester, Western Springs, Willow Springs, Palatine, Hickory Hills, Hazel Crest and Broadview, Ill.

Related blog posts:

Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Cook County Summary Judgment Order that Insurer Must Defend Toxic-Tort Complaints Even When the Dates of Exposure or Injury Were Vague or Unknown

Appellate Court Publishes Opinion Regarding the Use of Tools to Modify Product Causing Injury – Perez v. JLG

Engineering Expert Excluded from Testifying Because He Did Not Perform Any Tests to Form His Opinions – Bielskis v. Louisville Ladder, Inc.