Lawsuit over 2016 fall on peanut shells at Elgin pub could come to close
A lawsuit filed by Roselle woman arguing she was severely injured after slipping on peanut shells at Nick's Pizza & Pub in Elgin in 2016 could be coming to a close.
Attorneys for the pub, where patrons eat peanuts and throw the empty shells on the floor, have argued the shells were "open and obvious condition" to Nanci Zappia and others, and want a Kane County judge to decide the case in late August.
Zappia's attorney, Paul Millewich, said this week he could not discuss specifics of what he will argue on behalf of his client, but maintained the lawsuit was not frivolous. "It's a very valid lawsuit," he said.
The lawsuit was filed in January 2018, seeking damages of more than $50,000 against the restaurant at 990 S. Randall Road. It argues negligence by the restaurant caused Zappia to fall on a ramp Jan. 23, 2016.
Millewich has said injuries required Zappia to have a cervical fusion surgery redone.
Patrons at Nick's Pizza are offered in-shell peanuts, and sweeping empty shells onto the wood floor is encouraged and part of the pub's tradition and branding efforts.
Michael Nardulli, an attorney for the restaurant, has filed a motion for summary judgment. It is like a mini-trial, but with no witnesses; attorneys from both sides submit legal arguments and the judge, in this case James Murphy, makes a ruling.
"The peanut shells scattered throughout the restaurant were clearly visible," read part of the motion filed by Nardulli, who could not be reached this week for additional comment. "A reasonable patron in the position of the plaintiff would have undoubtedly observed the peanut shells on the ground from the moment they entered the restaurant. They would have felt the shells crack under their feet as they walked to their table. They would have witnessed other patrons consuming the free peanuts at every table and noticed patrons discarding the shells on the ground."
In a March 2019 deposition, Zappia testified she'd never been to Nick's or another establishment that had peanut shells on the floor, didn't notice signs advising patrons of peanuts and shells, and fell on a ramp after dinner on her way out.
"I was up at the top of it and I just flew up in the air and I landed on my shoulder and my neck landed on the upper step of the -- where the tables are for the other level," she stated. "After I got up, I seen all the peanut shells was on my body."
Her husband, Edward Zappia, detailed the impact the fall and injuries have had on their quality of life in a June 2019 deposition. "We don't go walking any more," he said, according to court records. "We don't go bike riding any more. We could still sit and watch TV. That's not a problem. We can ride in the car. We can go shopping. But any kind of physical activity -- no."
The two sides are due in court Aug. 25, although Millewich said the date could be pushed back.