Family of Man Killed by Falling Ice Receives $4.5 Million

February 5, 1999

The family of a Wisconsin man killed by falling ice has settled its lawsuit against the tenant and owner of the 737 North Michigan Avenue Neiman-Marcus building. The victim, Donald Booth, 48, of Brookfield, Wisconsin, was killed on February 28, 1994 when a block of ice fell off the front facade of the Michigan Avenue store. Booth was in town while his daughter was taking college entrance tests in a downtown office suite.

The family, represented by Corboy & Demetrio, filed suit charging Neiman-Marcus, the building tenant, and Olympia & York, the building owner, with creating a public nuisance and negligence in their failure to keep their building clear of ice and for their failure to cordon off the sidewalk. Chunks of ice had been falling off the building for days but workers failed to place the signs out on the day of the occurrence.

"The law in this state is very clear," said Thomas A. Demetrio, one of the family's attorneys. "Building owners owe a duty of care to pedestrians lawfully using the public sidewalks. The failure to clear ice - or at least warn of it - often results in injuries or, as in this case, death. Building owners and occupiers who refuse to act responsibly must answer in fair and reasonable damages to those they injure or to family members who suffer a senseless, tragic loss."

Pretrial investigation of the case revealed that the ice built up and fell off the decorative glass barrel-vaulted feature over the Michigan Avenue facade of the building. "Neiman-Marcus and Olympia & York had repeated warnings of ice falling off their building onto the sidewalk," Demetrio added. "It was only a matter of time before something like this happened."

Witnesses estimated the block to have weighed 100-200 pounds with dimensions as large as a microwave. Mr. Booth was killed instantly. He left surviving him Dawn, his wife of 23 years; and his three children, Nate, 24; Amanda, 21; and Eric, 17.

The case was settled by the parties in front of Chief Circuit Court of Cook County Judge Donald P. O'Connell.

The plaintiffs were represented by Thomas A. Demetrio of Corboy & Demetrio. Defendant, Neiman-Marcus Group, was represented by John O'Donnell of Belgrade and O'Donnell. Defendant, Olympia & York, was represented by John Huston of Tressler, Soderstrom, Maloney & Priess.

The case was entitled: Cheryl J. Larsen, Special Administrator of the Estate of Donald Booth, Deceased v. The Neiman Marcus Group, Inc.; O&Y (U.S.) Development General Partner Corp., a corporation; O&Y (U.S.) Development Company, L.P., a corporation; Joseph McElroy, Robert T. Price, Larry D. Kenny and Larry Dematteo, Circuit Court of Cook County Number 97 L 11368.