Immunity Plea Becomes Icy Failure for City of Park Ridge: Suing a Municipality

After an ‘unnatural accumulation’ of snow and ice formed on a city sidewalk due to the negligence of a city snow plow operator – making the sidewalk impassable — a woman was forced into the street and was subsequently hit by a car.  She brought suit against the city for her injuries citing negligence.

The city argued that the street, where the woman was actually injured, wasn’t intended for walking and therefore, they relied on Section 3—102(a) of the local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, which held them immune of responsibility.
In fact, the Cook County judge agreed with the city and granted their summary judgment to dismiss.
Not to be denied, the woman appealed the judge’s ruling, and the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the decision in favor of the plaintiff.
In his decision, Justice Nathaniel Howse Jr. ruled that the city was responsible for the ‘intended use’ of the sidewalk, and because their failure to provide for its safety forced the plaintiff into the street, immunity for the injury ‘in the street’ did not apply.
That she was injured in the street, where immunity would have indeed applied (because pedestrians are not intended to be in the street walking), is negated by the fact that she was forced into the street when the sidewalk was impassable. The breach of duty is centered on the sidewalk, not the street.
In his ruling, Justice Howse stated, “In this case, we are not dealing with a small amount of snow cleared from a sidewalk and onto a curb, but rather snow that the city plowed onto the sidewalks and then failed to clear, allegedly making them impassable in the exercise of ordinary care.”