7th Circuit: Woman injured from tripping over curb can’t hold Speedway liable

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A woman who injured herself after tripping over a curb at a Speedway convenience store did not convince the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that the gas station was liable for her injuries.

As Cheryl Weaver was walking up to a Speedway gas station in December 2017, she tripped over the curb leading to the front doorway and fell. Weaver injured herself and claimed she hadn’t noticed the curb because it wasn’t painted yellow like it should be per Speedway’s internal policies.

She then sued Speedway in Indiana state court for negligence, alleging the company failed to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition. The case was later removed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, which entered summary judgment for Speedway.

The district court held that any danger posed by the curb was obvious and that Speedway had no reason to anticipate Weaver would not protect herself from such a situation. It relied in part on evidence that, in the last five years, only one other person had reported falling over that curb, and that Weaver herself had visited the same store multiple times without tripping.

Although the policy to paint the curbs outside store entrances was relevant, the district court concluded a violation of that policy would not, by itself, establish a breach of Speedway’s duty as premises owner.

The 7th Circuit affirmed in Cheryl Weaver v. Speedway, LLC, 21‐1957, noting that the centrality of the Speedway policy to Weaver’s case “cannot be over-emphasized.”

“Ms. Weaver’s candid reliance on the Speedway policy as the fulcrum of her case is an accurate portrayal of the record before us,” Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote for the appellate court. “Apart from the manual, Ms. Weaver submits only two other pieces of evidence.

“The first is the testimony of Speedway’s general manager. The manager’s testimony, however, concerned the meaning and operation of the policy,” Ripple wrote. “The second is Ms. Weaver’s own statement that she did not see the curb and that she tripped, but negligence cannot be inferred from the mere fact of an accident.”

Unlike the case of Walters v. JS Aviation, Inc., 81 N.E.3d 1160 (Ind. Ct. App. 2017), the 7th Circuit noted Weaver’s pictures of the scene taken a few days after the accident did not reveal any distracting posters, lights or features that may have distracted her from seeing the step.

“In this record, there is no evidence that the area surrounding the curb renders the curb particularly dangerous. There is no evidence that the storeowner should have expected that an invitee would be distracted in her effort to enter the doorway by signs on the storefront, or by activities and items inside the store that can be seen through the glass,” Ripple wrote.

“Ms. Weaver submits no evidence from which a jury could conclude that the curb from the parking area posed any unusual danger to those (like her) entering the store in the normal course of doing business,” he concluded.

The 7th Circuit therefore ruled that the district court correctly determined a rational jury, properly instructed on the law of Indiana, could not have determined Speedway was liable to Weaver on account of her fall.

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