The Illinois Supreme Court recently clarified a 1979 law that states that property owners are immune from liability if someone slips on naturally occurring ice and snow on their property.
The original law offers protection to property owners from lawsuits if they fail to fully remove snow and ice from their sidewalks and walkways. However, a recent case put the original law under a new microscope.
Back in 2011, a Chicago woman fell on an icy sidewalk outside her Carol Stream condo building, which resulted in fractures in her leg, knee and hip. The woman said the reason the ice was on the walkway was because the condo association had inadequate drainage and improperly placed downspouts. She sued the condominium association and the property management group for damages, but the two groups cited the 1979 law that states that they are immune to liability for ice on their property. They won their summary judgment.
Appeals Court Overturns Ruling
However, the woman and her attorney took the case to an appeal’s court, suggesting that the intent of the original law was to protect people from situations of accidental liability, not due to negligence. The appeals court agreed and reversed the original ruling, but the property management group and the condo association later appealed the reversal at the Illinois Supreme Court. Thankfully, in a ruling that protects individuals, the state Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the appeal’s court.
“The Snow and Ice Removal Act provides immunity to residential property owners from claims of liability for injuries allegedly caused by icy sidewalks that result from negligent snow and ice removal efforts, but it does not extend to immunize them from claims of liability for injuries allegedly caused by icy sidewalks that result from an otherwise negligent failure to maintain the premises,” Justice Mary Jane Theis in the majority opinion.
Kristina K. Green, the attorney representing the woman at the center of the case, said the ruling was the correct interpretation of the original law’s intent.
“The statute’s intent was you can’t get in trouble for attempts to clear the ice and snow,” Green said. “The ice that our client slipped on wasn’t the result of snow and ice removal efforts. The ice formed because there were defects in the property.”
So while it’s a win for Green’s client, the original law isn’t the greatest. If a landlord fails to remove icy accumulation from their property and a person slips and suffers an injury, that person should be able to seek damages. There should either be some consequences or some ways for a person to seek compensation if they are injured on a person’s property due to a landlord’s decision not to clear the naturally occurring snow. These cases should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to see if a good faith effort was put in by the property manager instead of giving them an overwhelming amount of immunity.