PERSEPHANY ALLEN, AS THE NATURAL DAUGHTER AND NEXT FRIEND OF CATINA ALLEN STAFFNEY, DECEASED, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL THE HEIRS AT LAW AND WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF CATINA ALLEN STAFFNEY, DECEASED, AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF MINORS, T.S. AND T.S. APPELLANT/CROSS-APPELLEE
JACKSON SQUARE APARTMENT HOMES, LLC D/B/A MELROSE PLACE APARTMENTS AND JUSTIN DAVIS APPELLEES/CROSS-APPELLANTS
OF JUDGMENT: 06/06/2016
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. WILLIAM A.
GOWAN JR. TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JEFFREY MATTHEW GRAVES DENNIS C.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: DORIS THERESA BOBADILLA MATTHEW
GRIFFIS, P.J., CARLTON AND GREENLEE, JJ.
Persephany Allen, as the natural daughter and next friend of
Catina Allen Staffney, deceased, filed an action against
Jackson Square Apartment Homes, LLC, for negligence following
the death of Catina in an apartment fire. The circuit court
allowed Allen to withdraw admissions previously deemed
admitted, but ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of
Upon review, we find the circuit court did not abuse its
discretion in allowing the withdrawal of the admissions, and
did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Jackson
Square. Thus, we affirm. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Terry Staffney executed a residential lease agreement with
Melrose Place Apartments, an apartment complex owned and
managed by Jackson Square. Staffney identified himself,
Catina, Terry Allen, and Terrick Allen as the occupants of
Unit L-205. The lease agreement expired February 28, 2014.
Following the expiration of the lease agreement, the
occupants remained on the premises despite their failure to
pay additional rent. As a result, Jackson Square obtained a
money judgment against the occupants in the amount of $639.
Thereafter, Jackson Square executed an affidavit for warrant
of removal and, on May 6, 2014, deposited the requisite sum
of money with the court clerk in order to obtain the removal
of the occupants.
Despite the expiration of the lease agreement, their failure
to pay rent, and Jackson Square's actions to remove them,
the occupants were inside the apartment unit on the night of
May 16, 2014, when a fire occurred. All of the occupants were
able to vacate the unit with the exception of Catina, who
unfortunately died. At the time of the fire, an order of
removal had not yet been obtained.
On August 20, 2015, Allen filed a complaint on behalf of
herself and all wrongful- death beneficiaries of Catina, and
alleged various premises-liability claims against Jackson
Square and Justin Davis, the maintenance man for the
apartment complex. Specifically, Allen alleged that Jackson
Square had nonfunctioning or inadequate smoke detectors and
fire alarms at the time of the fire, had inadequate and
improperly trained maintenance personnel and managers, and
knew or should have known that no warnings were provided and
that the fire-protection measures in place were unreasonable
and inadequate to warn tenants.
Jackson Square subsequently served written discovery,
including requests for admission, upon Allen and her counsel.
The discovery requests were served to Allen's counsel via
email on February 26, 2016, and again at the request of
Allen's counsel on February 29, 2016. Allen did not
respond to the requests for admission within thirty days and,
as a result, the admissions were deemed admitted by operation
On April 12, 2016, Jackson Square's counsel sent a
good-faith request to Allen's counsel and requested that
Allen provide responses within ten days. Allen's counsel
acknowledged the good-faith request and confirmed that
discovery responses would be provided within ten days.
Despite the agreed-upon extension, on April 13, 2016, Jackson
Square moved for summary judgment based, in part, on
Allen's failure to timely respond to the requests for
admission. Thereafter, on April 28, 2016, Allen filed a
motion to withdraw the admissions and acknowledged her
failure to timely respond to the requests for admission.
Allen asserted her failure to timely respond was due to her
attorney being busy and interoffice miscommunication. Despite
seeking to withdraw her admissions, Allen did not respond to
the requests for admission. In fact, Allen did not respond to