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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Illinois Supreme Court Issues Ruling in Sidewalk Case

Recently, the Illinois Supreme Court decided whether the Tort Immunity Act immunized the City of Danville from liability for failing to repair a sidewalk. Monson v. City of Danville.

In 2012, Barbara Monson was shopping in the City of Danville. As she was walking on the sidewalk she tripped and sustained multiple injuries. Plaintiff sued the City for negligence and willful and wanton conduct for failing to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition.

Prior to her injuries, in 2011 two City employees, the superintendent of downtown service and the director of the public works department, began a project to repair sidewalks in the downtown area. The public works director made the final decisions about which sections of sidewalk would be repaired. The director testified that he used his discretion as the public works director not to replace the portion of sidewalk where Monson was injured.

The trial court ruled in favor of the City, finding the City immune from liability under sections 2-109 and 2-201 of the Tort Immunity Act. Sections 2-109 and 2-201 of the Act immunize a public entity from liability for the discretionary acts or omissions of its employees. Plaintiff appealed the decision up to the Illinois Supreme Court which recently reversed the ruling in favor of the City.

The City had argued that the City’s alleged acts or omissions were discretionary under 2-201 of the Tort Immunity Act because the decision to repair certain portions of the sidewalk and leave other portions alone was a matter of policy within its employees’ discretion. But the Court held that while decisions involving repairs to public property can be a discretionary matter subject to immunity, in this case, the City had not met its burden of establishing that the alleged acts or omissions constituted an exercise of discretion within the meaning of section 2-201.

The City also asked the Court to uphold the lower court’s order on the basis that the allegedly defective sidewalk was de minimis. However, the Court concluded that genuine issues of material issues of fact exist with respect to whether the sidewalk defect was de minimis and as a result the City was not entitled to a judgment as a matter of law on this issue.

The case now goes back to the trial court to rule on the City's argument that the defect was "open and obvious."

Post Authored by John Reding and Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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