Articles Posted in Weather-Related Accidents

In a recent case, Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc., the Illinois Supreme Court considered whether Illinois’ Snow and Ice Removal Act prevents plaintiffs from suing for negligent maintenance of premises that causes ice or snow accumulation. In that case, a woman brought a premises liability lawsuit against a condominium association in Carol Stream, Illinois after she fell on an icy sidewalk.

According to the facts outlined in the court’s opinion, the area had a major snowstorm, and the condominium association had cleared the sidewalks. Eleven days later, the plaintiff fell and broke her leg, knee, and hip. The plaintiff alleged that the condominium association negligently designed the area to allow for the proper drainage of the snowmelt, failed to repair the sidewalks, failed to comply with maintenance codes, and failed to prevent the unnatural accumulation of ice.

Icy PavementThe trial court determined the claim was barred because residential owners and operators are immune for negligent acts under Illinois’ Snow and Ice Removal Act. However, Illinois’ Supreme Court found the claim was not barred. It explained that the Snow and Ice Removal Act confers immunity from claims caused by icy sidewalks due to negligent snow and ice removal efforts. However, the court explained that the plaintiff’s claim here did not allege negligent snow and ice removal efforts, but instead it alleged negligent design and maintenance of the area. Considering the intent of the Act, the Court found the Act does not preclude claims caused by icy sidewalks resulting from other negligent premises liability theories.

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Everyone has seen someone slip on an icy sidewalk, and the injuries can be serious. But whose duty is it to maintain the sidewalk, and what does that duty require? In a recent case, a court held that a case had to be retried when a plaintiff failed to explain what the defendant’s duty was in training its employees and how they failed to meet that duty.

Snowy RoadIn a recent case, a woman slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk at a Marriott hotel while she was staying at the hotel for business. She broke her ankle and sued the hotel for negligently maintaining its sidewalks and failing to properly train the employees who were responsible for deicing the sidewalks. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury found the hotel 98 percent at fault. The hotel appealed the decision, and the state’s supreme court reversed and ordered a new trial. The court held that the trial court should not have allowed a “negligent training theory” without having testimony on the standard of care for training employees on how to deice the sidewalk, or how that had been breached.

The court explained that the jury could not have found that the hotel was negligent in training its employees because the required standard was never explained to the jury. In other words, the plaintiff did not provide any evidence that the hotel had a duty to instruct employees about the time that deicing would remain effective. The court stated that some evidence or testimony to support the position had to be admitted before a jury could return a verdict on that specific claim. The jury could not find that the hotel breached its duty to properly train employees because the standard of care required was never explained. As a result, the court reversed the decision, and the case had to be retried.

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On most weekday mornings, yellow school buses carrying kids from kindergarten to high school flood the streets of Illinois. At the same time, drivers rushing to work are looking for ways to shorten their commute and make it to the office on time. This combination can be a recipe for disaster, especially in winter weather and icy road conditions.

icy-tail-light-1182383Of course, all drivers know that the flashing red lights on a school bus mean “stop.” But many drivers think they are smarter than the lights and can squeeze past a bus in time to avoid any sort of accident. Equally egregious is the fact that buses are poorly equipped to keep children safe. Lax federal regulations allow bus companies to bypass upgrades that can prevent injuries and even save lives.

In Illinois, all drivers must take reasonable care when driving a motor vehicle. This means they have to drive at safe speeds, avoid known distractions like texting behind the wheel, and not drive while intoxicated, which includes the side effects of prescription medications. If a driver fails to take any of these precautions, they may be held liable for their negligence by anyone injured as a result.

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