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Thursday, January 8, 2015

City Not Liable for Injuries from Cracked Sidewalk

The Illinois Supreme Court recently held in Bruns v. City of Centralia, 2014 IL 116998, that the City was not liable to a 79-year-old woman who stubbed her toe on a crack in the sidewalk outside of her eye clinic, causing her to fall and injure her arm, leg and knee. 

The plaintiff admitted that she “definitely” noticed the crack in the sidewalk every time she went to the eye clinic, but argued that the distraction exception to the open and obvious rule should apply because she was focused on the entrance to the eye clinic. According to the trial transcript, the sidewalk defect, caused by the roots of a 100-year old tree, developed over a period of several years, but the city refused to remove the sidewalk defect because of the 100-year-old tree’s historic significance. 

The trial court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment finding that the sidewalk defect was open and obvious and, therefore, the City was immune from liability because it had no duty to protect the plaintiff.  The court rejected plaintiff’s argument that the distraction exception applied because allowing the mere existence of a store entrance to fall within the distraction exception would go far beyond the scope of what exception’s intended purpose. 

On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the trial court, finding that the distraction exception to the open and obvious rule did not apply and that the City had no duty to protect plaintiff from the open and obvious sidewalk defect. The Court reasoned that the plaintiff failed to provide any reason that required her to divert her attention away from the open and obvious sidewalk defect; rather, the plaintiff simply had her attention focused elsewhere.

Post Authored by Christy Michaelson, Ancel Glink


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