The estate of Molly Anne Glynn sued the Forest Preserve District of Cook County following Glynn’s death after she was stuck by a tree limb while riding her bicycle on one of the District’s paved bicycle paths. The District claimed it was immune from liability under the Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act. Section 3-107(b) provides immunity for an injury caused by a condition of “[a]ny hiking, riding, fishing or hunting trail,” while section 3-106 provides immunity from ordinary negligence “where the liability is based on the existence of a condition of any public property intended or permitted to be used for recreational purposes, including but not limited to parks, playgrounds, open areas, buildings or other enclosed recreational facilities.”
Plaintiff responded that although the bicycle path itself was recreational property, the tree that struck Glynn was about 7 feet from the bike path in an area of Erickson Woods that was not permitted to be used for recreational purposes, so the District could not rely on the Tort Immunity Act.
The trial court had certified two questions to the Illinois appellate court which were addressed in Foust v. Forest Preserve District ofCook County.
The first question was:
(1) Does a tree whose base is located about seven feet from the edge of a forest preserve bicycle path, and that has a limb overhanging the approximate width of the path which breaks off and falls onto a cyclist on the path, constitute a condition of property intended or permitted to be used for recreational purposes pursuant to Section 3-106 of the Tort Immunity Act?
The appellate court first analyzed whether Erickson Woods was permitted or intended for recreational purposes as a whole or whether the intended use of the specific location of the tree was relevant. The court relied on the District’s brochure, which stated that Erickson Woods was suitable for “picnicking, hiking, cycling, inline skating, cross-country skiing, and fishing”, among other activities, to find that the property as a whole was intended or permitted to be used for recreational purposes. As a result, 3-106 immunity applied.
The second question certified by the trial court was:
(2) Does a tree whose base is located about seven feet from the edge of a forest preserve bicycle path, and that has a limb overhanging the approximate width of the path which breaks off and falls onto a cyclist on the path, constitute a condition of a trail pursuant to Section 3-107(b) of the Tort Immunity Act?
With respect to immunity under section 3-107(b), the court determined that the District was not immune because the tree limb was not a condition of the riding trail since it was hanging about the trail and did not fall until it hit the rider. The court stated that had the facts been different (i.e. had the tree limb fallen to the ground and the rider collided with it), it could have been a condition of the path under those facts. But, since the tree limb was not a part of the trail under these circumstances, the District was not covered by 3-107(b) immunity.
Post Authored by Katie O'Grady, Ancel Glink