Premises Liability on Public Property: This Case is a Stretch

The Chicago and South Chicago Premises Liability Lawyers at Grazian and Volpe have generally advised that premises liability for a personal injury sustained on public property is not subject to compensation for the victim under the Section 3-106 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Act) (745 ILCS 10/3-106 (West 2008) ). This Section carves an immunity for public entities from the common-law duty to exercise ordinary care to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. Case law established in Bubb v. Springfield School District 186 held that “neither a local public entity nor a public employee is liable for an injury where the liability is based upon the existence of a condition of any public property intended or permitted to be used for recreational purposes, ***unless such local entity or public employee is guilty of willful and wanton conduct proximately causing such injury.” 745 ILCS 10/2-106

Recently, in Grundy v. Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago Park District et al, the Supreme Court found confirmed the appellate court decision to extend the immunity to “moveable” and even “misplaced moveable” items. In the Grundy case, the plaintiff tripped over the leg of a sign at a cafe located at the zoo. In its reasoning the court cites a case where immunity was upheld where a plaintiff “tripped on a misplaced, concrete car stop” Rexroad, 207 Ill 2d at 41.

I live in Chicago and personally travel through the area of Lincoln Park Zoo on my morning “constitutional” having many occasion to view the moveable signs that are of question in Grundy. These signs are very light, blend in with the pavement and are brought in at close and re-placed in the morning. They are not consistently placed but for their direct obstruction of high traffic areas (ostensibly so the pedestrian cannot miss them and will be enticed to eat at the cafe, although the cafe building looms above).

While there is common sense policy behind the Tort Immunity Act, I have to question the applicability of reasoning and case law to Grundy. This sign was for the purpose of advertising a concession and as such was purposefully placed in an area where a pedestrian “could not miss it”- physically. However the light weight of this sign and bland color means its visibility is low and therefore a tripping hazard. Coupled with the fact it is in a high traffic area and not consistently placed leads me to believe the court may have stretched in granting immunity in this particular case.

Plaintiffs and lawyers alike should be aware of this case and what it means for personal injury liability in a public setting. The only thing it makes clear is the need for lawyers to be very careful in pleading this types of causes of action.

The Chicago and Cicero Premises Liability Lawyers at Grazian and Volpe know that premises liability issues are of special interest to the public and we have many occasion to field calls from viewers of WCUI, You and Me in the Morning. We also post many articles involving premises liability issues on our website at myaccidentlaw.com and grazianandvolpe.com. Questions and consultations are always free and we love to talk law-so if you can’t stay safe stay with Grazian and Volpe.

Grazian & Volpe, Part of the Lloyd Miller Law Group