Falls on City Property: Pitfalls Most People Do Not Know About
When You Fall On Public Property, The Tort Immunity Act Has Some Surprises For You.
There is a special law in Illinois (and in most States) that protects Cities from liability in fall down cases.
The Tort Immunity Act provides:
Except as otherwise provided in this Article, a local public entity has the duty to exercise ordinary care to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition for the use in the exercise of ordinary care of people whom the entity intended and permitted to use the property in a manner in which and at such times as it was reasonably foreseeable that it would be used, and shall not be liable for injury unless it is proven that it has actual or constructive notice of the existence of such a condition that is not reasonably safe in reasonably adequate time prior to an injury to have taken measures to remedy or protect against such condition.
This legal gobbledegook means that if you fall on public property (an alley, a city sidewalk, a street, a curb, a parkway), the Court will look at whether you were intended and permitted to use the property as you were using it. If you are not seens as an intended and permitted user of the area, then the Court will throw out your case.
Keep in mind that this is only special protection that Cities like the City of Chicago get when being sued when someone falls on public property. Private Defendants, like a home owner or a store owner do not get this kind of protection. incidentally, talking to a fall down lawyer is a good idea, because one of things we can do for you is to make sure who officially owns thye property.
So here is a summary of various situations and when the Court usually decides that a person who fell down and got hurt was an ‘intended and permitted user’ under the Tort Immunity Act.
Parkways: Parkways are the grassy area of a street after the sidewalk but before you get to the curb and the street. Generally, it is foreseeable that private citizens will have occasion to step off of the sidewalk and step onto the parkway, and therefore, encounter a defect or problem that usually causes a fall or other kind of fall down injury, like a broken ankle. The thing to watch out for here is that the Courts seem to want to know WHY you were on the parkway. For example, a minor can be expected to walk on the parkway. Walking to your car on the parkway when you fell is another explanation. Avoiding a muddy sidewalk, or stepping aside to let a large group of people pass on the sidewalk is good, too. Maybe you were walking your dog and you had to step onto the parkway to pick up the dog’s droppings. Any of these are the sorts of things that the Court wants to know.
If you have some reasonable explanation for why you stepped onto the parkway and fell, rather than using the sidewalk, then your case will probably be okay and will not be dismissed.
Alley: Alleys are generally NOT intended for pedestrian foot traffic, believe it or not. I was surprised to discover this since we all know that people walk in alleys all the time. But if you were taking a shortcut through an alley and your foot got caught and your tripped and fell in the middle on an alley, you may be out of the luck, since the Court is likely to say that since you were not an ‘intended and permitted user”, then you cannot maintain a lawsuit.
An important exception is that if your city requires you to place your garbage cans on public property for the city to remove your garbage (like it is required in Chicago), and you encountered the problems while, say, throwing away your garbage, then you have a pretty good argument and the Court might allow you to keep your case going.
Street: Walking in the street is a no-no if you want to have an injury case. Basically, the Court says that streets are designed for vehicular traffic and not people walking (i.e., pedestrians), and therefore, you aren’t an intended and permitted user.
Of course, like so much of the law, there are exceptions. For example, if your car is legally parked, and you are walking onto the street only to get into your case, you might be able to win that case, as long as you are going to your car and your car is parked on the same side of the street as you are on. You cannot cross the street in the middle of the block, because if you do? You guessed it: you aren’t an intended and permitted user of the street.
Another exception is if you are crossing the street within a marked crosswalk. Then, the City would have a pretty hard time saying that you aren’t allowed to access the street in a marked crosswalk since they are the ones who designated the area for street crossing.
Recreatioanl Property: Recreational property refers to parks and places like that; places that are maintained specifically for recreation. It is very, very tough to sue for a fall on public property if it is recreational property.
Section 3-106 of the Tort Immunity Act says:
Neither a local public entity nor a public employee is liable for an injury 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, unless such local entity or public employee is guilty of willful and wanton conduct proximately causing such injury.
If you fell on a recreational property, you cannot sue the City for negligence. A municipality is immune from liability for injuries occurring on the municipally owned recreational property unless the municipality or its employee is found guilty of willful and wanton conduct. Willful and wanton conduct is an action which shows a conscious disregard for the safety of others or actual knowledge that their actions will result in hurting someones. It is very hard to prove. You need extremely strong evidence to have any shot of winning a case like this.
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Cab Driver, Fall Down