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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

No Duty to Keep Streets Safe for Pedestrians Outside Marked Crosswalk

As Thanksgiving approaches, municipalities can count one more blessing to be thankful for. In an opinion handed down last Friday, an Illinois appellate court issued a favorable ruling for municipalities just in time for the winter weather. In Harden v. City of Chicago, the appellate court held that the only part of the street that the City was required to keep safe for pedestrians was the marked crosswalk area. While this is not the first time that an Illinois court has articulated this rule, this case is significant because it extends the rule to situations where the plaintiff could not see the crosswalk because it was covered with snow.
In this case, the plaintiff was injured after she slipped on a metal plate while trying to cross the street. Although the plate was not located in the crosswalk, it was only a few feet away from it. The plaintiff argued that the city was liable to her because she thought she was using the crosswalk, as the lines marking it were covered with snow. The court rejected this argument, and held that the city had no duty to keep areas outside of the marked crosswalk safe for pedestrians, even if the crosswalk lines were covered with snow. The court noted that "the Illinois legislature has established a clear public policy to immunize government from the financial burdens of preventing injuries which occur as a result of unintended uses of the streets." Although the court felt bad for the plaintiff, it held that she had no claim against the city, since she was injured outside the marked sidewalk and was, therefore, an unintended user of the street.
This holding should provide some relief for municipalities, who already face a large number of cases every winter brought by plaintiffs injured after slipping on ice. In an era where municipalities face declining budgets and increasing workloads, let’s be thankful that they do not have to spend millions of extra dollars to keep those portions of the street outside the marked crosswalk safe for unintended users.
For more information on the types of lawsuits that municipalities may encounter, check out the Tort Immunity Handbook on the Ancel Glink website.
Post Authored by Matt DiCianni, Ancel Glink


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