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Illinois Supreme Court Clarifies Issue Involving Snow and Ice Removal Act

In December 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a ruling that on some cases, limits the immunities provided to residential owners and operators by the Snow and Ice Removal Act. In doing so, it expands a plaintiff's right to claim damages for injuries resulting from some types of slip-and-fall cases involving snow and ice.

Early in February 2011, northern Illinois was hit by a heavy snowstorm that dumped more than 20 inches of snow. On February 7, a landscaping and snow removal service hired by the management company for Klein Creek Condominium in Carol Stream, Illinois, removed the snow accumulation on the sidewalk outside the condominium building. The accident that led to the Court's ruling occurred on February 18, 2011. Pamela Murphy-Hylton, a resident at Klein Creek Condominium, slipped on ice that had accumulated outside the building, suffering fractures to her leg, knee and hip. Subsequently, she sued the condominium association and its management company, claming that negligent maintenance created an unnatural accumulation of ice due to improper drainage and code violations. 

In trial court, the defendants initially prevailed, claiming immunity under the Snow and Ice Removal Act. Following the plaintiff's appeal, the appellate court threw out the trial court's decision. The appellate court noted that the plaintiff did not allege negligence in the snow and ice removal process. Ordinarily, the Snow and Ice Removal Act provides immunity for residential owners and operators. But in this case, the plaintiff alleged that the condominium association and the management company negligently allowed water from a nearby downspout to accumulate on the sidewalk, where the drain water later froze. The case then proceeded to the Illinois Supreme Court. In its ruling issued on December 1, 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiff, reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment and allowing the plaintiff to seek damages.

This case highlights the fact that slip-and-fall cases which occur on snow and ice present complex factual and legal issues. They require careful analysis by a skilled attorney to determine whether a sufficient cause of action exists.

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