Four months and several surgeries later, on June 13, Murphy-Hylton filed a negligence action in the Circuit Court of Cook County against the condominium association and its management company, alleging that “their negligent maintenance of the premises created an unnatural accumulation of ice, which caused her to fall.”
Three years later, on August 14, 2014, the trial court sided with the defendants and dismissed the case. Why? The owners of the complex were protected by the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act. The law states that property owners are not required to remove snow and ice because, basically, the weather there is too unpredictable for them to take on such an “unreasonable burden of vigilance.” While a property owner is “encouraged to clean the sidewalks,” according to the act, he or she is not liable if someone gets hurt by slipping and falling on “the snowy or icy condition.”
Nonetheless, Murphy-Hylton appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Yes. Many municipalities (and some states) require property owners to remove snow and ice after a storm, but the regulations vary widely. However, Murphy-Hylton argued that this class of laws didn’t apply in her case. She said that the ice that felled her wasn’t from the snowstorm. Instead, it had allegedly formed when melting snow was funneled onto the sidewalk from poorly maintained drains and refroze there. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with her, ruling that the state’s Snow and Ice Removal Act does not immunize owners when an icy sidewalk that causes an injury is due to a “negligent failure to maintain the premises.” That meant her case against Klein Creek and its management company could proceed. Attorneys are back in mediation to determine whether the complex is liable after all, and if so, what damages should be awarded.
Ice isn’t the only wintery occurrence that can cause serious harm. Look out for these other ways winter could actually kill you.