February, 19 2021

Contact:Eric W. Boyer, Esq.
Managing Partner
305.670.1101 Ext. 1023


Property Damage / Lack of Evidence Supporting Element of Proximate Cause

Joshua R Runnels

CHICAGO Joshua R. Runnels, a partner in the Chicago office of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., recently obtained a victory regarding the appeal of a property damage case before the First District Appellate Court of Illinois.  The plaintiff, a condominium unit owner, filed a negligence claim against the defendant, who owned the condominium unit located directly above the plaintiff’s unit. Runnels represented the defendant.  The plaintiff’s complaint alleged that her unit sustained extensive water damage due to a leak that resulted from the defendant’s negligent maintenance of his unit.  After the trial court closed discovery, QPWB filed a motion for summary judgment that asserted that the plaintiff had failed to come forward with any evidence demonstrating proximate cause.  After the parties fully briefed the matter, the trial court entered summary judgment for the defendant.

The plaintiff appealed this ruling to the First District Appellate Court of Illinois.  On appeal, the plaintiff argued that summary judgment should be reversed because the trial court imposed an improper burden of production on the plaintiff, the trial court made a finding on a disputed issue of fact concerning the source of the leak, and the plaintiff’s evidence regarding the location of the leak and defendant’s location above her unit was sufficient to create an issue of fact for the jury.  In response, QPWB argued that the trial court did not improperly determine that the defendant’s evidence was more persuasive as suggested by the plaintiff.  Instead, the trial court simply found that the plaintiff failed to offer any evidence to support the element of proximate cause.  In addition, the defense asserted that the plaintiff had failed to lay a proper foundation for the plumbing report that was at the center of her claim. The plaintiff could not prevail without expert testimony concerning the source of the leak, and the plaintiff was relying on speculation and conjecture to support her claims.

The First District Appellate Court agreed with the defense’s arguments and held that summary judgment was properly entered for the defendant.  The Appellate Court noted that without direct evidence or expert testimony concerning the source of the leak, the plaintiff was relying on circumstantial evidence that was insufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment.  In addition, the Appellate Court stated that it could not consider the plumbing report relied on by the plaintiff because there was a lack of foundation for that record.  While the plaintiff asserted that physics and common sense supported her position, that the leak came from the defendant’s unit, the Appellate Court agreed with the defense’s classification of that position as mere conjecture.  For those reasons, the Appellate Court entered an order affirming the judgment of the trial court.

QPWB zealously advocated for its client from the inception of discovery all the way through the plaintiff’s appeal.  Doing so allowed the defense to bring motions for sanctions at the trial court level that barred the plaintiff from relying on certain records and testimony from plumbers, identified by the plaintiff as trial court witnesses.  Those efforts ultimately allowed the defense to prevail on a motion for summary judgment and then again on appeal.  The defense is proud these efforts allowed QPWB to protect its client from this expensive, speculative claim.

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Joshua R. Runnels is a partner in the Chicago office. He focuses on nursing home defense, medical malpractice and dental malpractice, general liability and automobile liability claims. He received his law degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2006 and is licensed to practice law in Illinois and Indiana.

About QPWB

Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A. is the largest minority and women owned law firm in the nation with more than 375 lawyers serving clients from 25 offices in the United States and abroad across a spectrum of industries in over 40 areas of practice. Our lawyers provide representation in litigation, business, real estate and governmental law.

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