The Illinois Supreme Court recently released an opinion affirming a lower appellate court’s decision not to grant immunity to a condominium association after the plaintiff was injured after slipping and falling on an ice patch and filed a premises liability lawsuit. The plaintiff’s case alleged that the defendant property management company negligently maintained the condominium complex where the plaintiff resided, resulting in her fall.
During the early case proceedings, the trial court applied a state statute concerning liability for improper snow and ice removal to find the defendant immune from liability for the plaintiff’s claim, granting summary judgment to the defendant. On appeal, the higher courts ruled that the plaintiff’s claim did not trigger the immunity statute and reversed the trial court. As a result of the recent rulings, the plaintiff’s case will return to the trial court and proceed toward a trial or settlement.
The Plaintiff Suffers an Injury After Slipping on the Sidewalk Outside Her Home
The plaintiff in the case of Murphy v. Lieberman Management Services is a Illinois woman who resided in a condominium complex that was managed by the defendant. About 10 days after a severe winter storm covered the area in over a foot of snow, the woman fell on a patch of ice that had accumulated in the parking lot near her apartment. The woman claimed that her fall was a result of the design of the parking lot and clogged gutters that were supposed to drain rainwater and snowmelt from areas where residents and visitors would be walking. Alleging that the property management company was responsible for ensuring the residents’ safety but failed to adequately design drainage and snowmelt management systems, the woman sued the defendant in state court for negligence and sought compensation for her injuries and loss.
The defendant responded to the plaintiff’s lawsuit by invoking an Illinois statute that granted immunity to businesses and property owners from claims alleging that a defendant’s negligent failure to adequately remove ice or snow from sidewalks caused injuries to a plaintiff. Although the plaintiff’s claim did not allege that the defendant failed to remove ice or snow from where she slipped, instead alleging that the inadequate design and maintenance of drainage and other systems caused an unnatural buildup of ice, the trial court ruled that the defendant was immune from her lawsuit under the Act and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim.
The Plaintiff Is Victorious on Appeal
The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s ruling to the Illinois Court of Appeals, noting that her complaint did not concern snow or ice removal efforts but other negligent acts resulting in the hazardous condition that allegedly caused her injury. The Illinois court of appeals agreed with the plaintiff that the scope of the Act was limited to claims arising from failed efforts to remove natural ice or snow after a storm. Since the plaintiff’s claim alleged that the ice that caused her fall was an unnatural buildup that was a result of the defendant’s negligent design and maintenance of the complex, the trial court should not have protected the defendant from the lawsuit.
The defendant appealed the ruling to the state supreme court, which issued the present opinion reiterating the reasoning of the court of appeals and allowing the plaintiff’s claim to proceed. Although the plaintiff has prevailed on two appeals, and her claim will be allowed to proceed toward a trial, she still must reach a settlement with the defendant or win a verdict at trial in order to receive any compensation for her injuries and loss.
Defendants and Insurance Companies Seek the Broadest Interpretation of Immunity Statutes
While Florida does not have an ice or snow removal immunity statute, comparable issues may arise in South Florida injury claims. Corporations and their representatives will often tell victims that the corporation is immune from the plaintiff’s claim under some law and either refuse to settle the claim or offer an insufficient settlement. Plaintiffs who encounter a claim that the defendant is immune from liability for injuries suffered should consult a dedicated personal injury attorney to evaluate their claim and obtain advice as to the immunity issue.
Contacting a South Florida Injury Attorney to Evaluate Your Case
If you or a loved one has been injured by a dangerous condition on another party’s property, the property owner or their insurance company may be quick to tell you that you don’t have a case and should give up on your claim. Do not believe everything you are told by an insurance company about your claim. It’s best to contact a competent Miami premises liability and negligence attorney to help you decide if the defendant or another party may be liable for damages. The South Florida premises liability attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank can help you determine the strength of your claim and fight for the compensation that you deserve. If you have been hurt, contact us today for a consultation. We can be reached at 877-448-8585.
More Blog Posts:
Dismissal of Rollerblading Injury Case Affirmed by Appellate Court, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 1, 2016.
School Authorities Received Multiple Complaints About Bus Driver Prior to Tragic Fatal Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 6, 2016.