Chicago in the winter gives rise to an increased number of slip and fall injuries, sometimes resulting in permanent injury or even death. A general issue our Chicago personal injury lawyers are often asked by prospective clients is under what circumstances are business owners or other private or public entities liable in serious slip and fall accidents.
In Chicago, the city enacted section 10-8-180 of the Chicago Municipal Code, which states that, in general, “every owner, lessee, tenant, occupant or other person having charge of any building or lot of ground in the city abutting upon any public way or public place shall remove the snow and ice from the sidewalk in front of such building or lot of ground.” In other words, people are generally charged with the responsibility to shovel and remove ice or snow from the section of sidewalk in front of their home or business.
However, the questions posed to our Chicago premises liability attorneys becomes (1) what are the repercussions for failing to remove ice/snow; and, (2) what are the repercussions for removing ice/snow in a negligent manner? The ordinance appears to address only the first question.
Section 10-8-190 states that “any person, who removes snow or ice from the public sidewalk or street, shall not, as a result of his acts or omissions in such removal, be liable for civil damages.” In other words, the Chicago ordinance suggests that a business or property owner may be considered negligent for failing to shovel, salt or remove ice from the sidewalk, but not for removing snow/ice in a careless manner.
More generally, Illinois follows the “natural accumulation” rule (codified in the Snow and Ice Removal Act, 745 ILCS 75/2 (2006)) for slip and fall accidents, which states that a property owner has no duty to remove a natural accumulation of snow or ice from property. However, a property owner may be held liable for a “voluntarily undertaking” to remove ice and snow, and doing so in a negligent manner. Or, a property owner may also be held liable for slips and falls on an “unnatural accumulation” of ice or snow (often caused by the negligent snow/ice removal). or slip an unnatural accumulation of snow or ice or aggravates a natural condition.
Public entities are also generally subject to the natural accumulation rule under the Governmental Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/3-102 -105(a) (2008), which provides that public entities owe a duty of ordinary care in the maintenance of its property, but is not liable “for an injury caused by the effect of weather” on public property.
It is oftentimes difficult to determine whether a person slipped and fell on a “natural” or “unnatural” accumulation of ice and snow, as noted by various Illinois courts. Because of the general duty of landowners to maintain their property in a reasonably safe manner, Illinois courts oftentimes deny summary judgment to defendants on this basis, and allow a jury to decide the issue of natural or unnatural accumulation of ice or snow.
There are various other issues that are important to flesh out in slip and fall or other premises liability cases, including “notice” of the dangerous condition, including the length of time the dangerous condition existed and prior complaints to the defendant property owners.
If you have been seriously and permanently injured in a slip & fall or other accident that you believe was caused by the carelessness or recklessness of another individual or entity, call (312) 527-4500 for a Free Consultation with one of Passen & Powell’s top-rated Chicago injury attorneys.