Recent Illinois Supreme Court Decision Clarifies Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act


Recent Illinois Supreme Court Decision Clarifies Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act

On December 1, 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case of Pamela Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc., et al., 2016 IL 120394. The case arises out of a claim by the Plaintiff, Pamela Murphy-Hylton, that she slipped and was injured while walking on the sidewalk outside her condominium. Ms. Murphy-Hylton alleged that a defective condition and negligent maintenance of the property created an “unnatural accumulation of ice” that caused her to fall. The trial court initially granted judgment in favor of the Defendants, Lieberman Management Services, Inc. and Klein Creek Condominium finding that the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act (745 ILCS 75/0.01) provided protection and immunity to the defendants. On appeal, the judgment was reversed. The matter was appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, who has agreed with the appellate court.

In general, the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act (745 ILCS 75/0.01) provides immunity from liability to claims arising out of negligent snow and ice removal efforts. See Greene v. Wood River Trust, 2013 IL App (4th) 130036, ¶ 17. Some Illinois Courts have broadened that immunity to include immunity from liability for claims of negligence arising from a defective condition on the property or negligent maintenance of the premises. See Ryan v. Glen Ellyn Raintree Condominium Association, 2014 IL App (2d) 130682, ¶ 20.

In its opinion in the Murphy-Hylton case, the Illinois Supreme Court restated Illinois’ historical rule that under the common law, a landowner owes no duty to remove natural accumulations of snow and ice. See Krywin v. Chicago Transit Authority, 238 Ill.2d 215, 227 (2010). However, landowners do owe a duty of reasonable care to prevent unnatural accumulations of ice and snow on their premises where they have actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition. See Graham v. City of Chicago, 346 Ill.638, 641 (1931).

As such, in Illinois, liability/responsibility may arise where snow or ice “accumulated by artificial and/or unnatural causes, or by an owner’s use of the area concerned thereby creating the dangerous condition, and where it has been there long enough for the responsible party to have notice and knowledge of the condition.” See Fitzsimmons v. National Tea Co., 29 Ill.App.2d 306, 318 (1961). In analyzing the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act in the context of the common law, the Illinois Supreme Court held that “nothing in the plain language of the Act evidences an intent by the General Assembly to immunize liability for falls on accumulations of ice that result due to circumstances unrelated to negligent snow and ice removal efforts. See Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc., et al., 2016 IL 120394, ¶ 29.

In other words, an owner is not insulated from liability and/or responsibility for ice that forms on a sidewalk and/or walkway in an unnatural way due to an otherwise defective condition of the property, nor insulated from claims that an owner was negligent in failing to make reasonable efforts to maintain the property to eliminate the danger created after reasonable notice of the defective condition. See McLean v. Rockford Country Club, 352 Ill.App.3d 229, 238 (2nd Dist. 2004)(alleging that specific building defects caused an unnatural accumulation of ice); see also Lapidus v. Hahn, 115 Ill.App.3d 795, 800-01 (1st Dist. 1983)( alleging that water dripped from a leaky roof and collected in a depression on the porch and froze, causing an unnatural accumulation); and see also McCann v. Bethesda Hospital, 80 Ill. App. 3d 544, 550-51 (1979) (excessive slope of the parking lot presented a question of fact whether the ice causing the fall was an unnatural accumulation).

It is winter once again in Illinois, and that means that we are undoubtedly going to be exposed to snow and ice on the sidewalks and walkways of our city and neighborhoods. If you have slipped and fallen on snow or ice this winter, and been injured then let the experienced attorneys at Strong Law Offices discuss your potential rights and interests with you. Our attorneys are experienced at aggressively pursuing claims of injury resulting from unnatural accumulations of snow and ice, and we can assist you in making a recovery for your injuries. Contact our office today for a free consultation!