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Court Determines Illinois Law Allows Plaintiffs to Sue for Negligent Maintenance of Premises, Causing Dangerous Ice Accumulation

In a recent case, Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc., the Illinois Supreme Court considered whether Illinois’ Snow and Ice Removal Act prevents plaintiffs from suing for negligent maintenance of premises that causes ice or snow accumulation. In that case, a woman brought a premises liability lawsuit against a condominium association in Carol Stream, Illinois after she fell on an icy sidewalk.

According to the facts outlined in the court’s opinion, the area had a major snowstorm, and the condominium association had cleared the sidewalks. Eleven days later, the plaintiff fell and broke her leg, knee, and hip. The plaintiff alleged that the condominium association negligently designed the area to allow for the proper drainage of the snowmelt, failed to repair the sidewalks, failed to comply with maintenance codes, and failed to prevent the unnatural accumulation of ice.

The trial court determined the claim was barred because residential owners and operators are immune for negligent acts under Illinois’ Snow and Ice Removal Act. However, Illinois’ Supreme Court found the claim was not barred. It explained that the Snow and Ice Removal Act confers immunity from claims caused by icy sidewalks due to negligent snow and ice removal efforts. However, the court explained that the plaintiff’s claim here did not allege negligent snow and ice removal efforts, but instead it alleged negligent design and maintenance of the area. Considering the intent of the Act, the Court found the Act does not preclude claims caused by icy sidewalks resulting from other negligent premises liability theories.

The Snow and Ice Removal Act

Historically, Illinois landowners do not have a duty to remove natural accumulations of snow and ice. The idea is that snowstorms are unpredictable, and imposing liability on all landowners would be unreasonable. Yet landowners do owe a duty of reasonable care to prevent unnatural accumulations of ice and snow if they have actual or constructive knowledge of the danger. Thus, for example, if an owner undertook a duty to maintain the premises and negligently did so, the owner could be liable. Illinois courts have found landowners liable when the owner plowed snow up against the plaintiff’s parked car, created a ridge of ice, and caused the plaintiff to fall, and when an owner piled snow in one area of the parking lot where it drained across the lot and froze.

However, since this rule discouraged people from voluntarily acting to remove snow and ice, Illinois enacted the Snow and Ice Removal Act, 745 ILCS 75/0.01 in 1979. The Act provides immunity to owners who remove snow and ice to encourage them to clean the sidewalks next to their properties. However, as the court explained in the case, the Act extends immunity only to the removal of snow and ice. It does not extend immunity to owners that may negligently maintain the premises, resulting in an unnatural accumulation of ice on the sidewalk. The distinction, while nuanced, can be critical to Illinois premises liability claims, such as the one discussed above.

Do You Have a Premises Liability Claim?

If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The Chicago injury attorneys at Moll Law Group are skilled in many personal injury claims, from premises liability to car accidents and medical malpractice. We are committed to vigorously representing injured victims against some of the most powerful corporations in the world. Our attorneys provide legal representation to individuals in Naperville, Schaumburg, Wheaton, and communities throughout Cook County. For a free consultation, call us at 312-462-1700 or fill out our online form.

See More Posts:

Plaintiff’s Expert’s Conclusions Protected by Work Product Doctrine, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, November 23, 2016.

Court Discusses “Foreseeability” Requirement in Chain-Reaction Truck Accident Case, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 2, 2016.

Court Reinstates Case After Attorney Admits Fault in Failing to Pay Court Fees, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 14, 2016.

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