Illinois Supreme Court Clarifies Sidewalk Snow Removal Law

By Denise Johnson | December 28, 2016

In an opinion filed earlier this month, the Illinois Supreme Court outlined the scope of immunity afforded under the Snow and Ice Removal Act. According to the opinion, the plaintiff, Pamela Murphy-Hylton, sustained injuries after she slipped and fell while walking on the sidewalk outside of her condominium in February 2011. She filed a complaint against the condominium complex and its management company, Klein Creek Condominium and Lieberman Management Services, Inc., alleging negligent maintenance and a defective condition caused an unnatural buildup of ice and that condition caused her fall.

According to background acquired from the opinion, there was a large snowstorm that caused snowfall in excess of 20 inches in early February 2011. On February 7, 2011, a snow removal and landscaping service hired by the condo association cleared the sidewalks of snow and ice. On February 18, the plaintiff slipped and fell on a sidewalk within her complex. She sustained a fracture to her leg, knee and hip.

With respect to the alleged defective condition, she cited drainage issues and alleged that downspouts were not properly maintained. She also alleged that building and maintenance codes were not in compliance.

Deposed witnesses recalled seeing some areas of pooled water and/or ice accumulation in areas of the condo complex.

Approximately eight months after plaintiff’s fall, drainage redirection work was completed in the area where the plaintiff had fallen.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment that relied on the Snow and Ice Removal Act which offers immunity to residential owners and operators. The trial court sided with the defendants and dismissed the case.

The plaintiff filed an appeal. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision, basing its decision on the fact that the plaintiff didn’t allege negligence in the snow and ice removal process and remanded the case back to the trial court.

The case proceeded up to the Illinois Supreme Court for review. The Court concluded that while the Act does provide immunity to property owners from liability claims resulting from slip and falls on slippery sidewalks resulting from negligent snow and ice removal, it does not extend to allegations of negligence that relate to the failure to maintain the premises. The appellate court decision was affirmed and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Read the full opinion http://www.claimsjournal.com/app/uploads/2016/12/Murphy-Hylton1Dec16.pdf

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