As the snow continues to fall, it is important for local governments to reflect on a recent Illinois Appellate Court case concerning snow removal. In Pattullo-Banks v. City of Park Ridge, the court limited the breadth of governmental immunity under the Tort Immunity Act after a plaintiff was injured due to the failure of a municipality to adequately remove snow.
In Pattullo, the plaintiff was forced to cross the street once the snow and ice accumulation on the sidewalk became dangerous, and was subsequently injured. Under the Tort Immunity Act, a unit of local government only owes a 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.” 745 ILCS 10/3-102(a). In response, the local government claimed immunity as the plaintiff was not an intended user of the street (the place where the injury occurred). However, the Appellate Court disagreed. In its holding, the court found that “we must look to the property where the breach allegedly occurred (the snow accumulated sidewalk) to answer the question of whether the injured party was an intended or permitted user of the property,” and not where the injury occurred. Thus, the court held that the defendant was not immune from liability as the plaintiff was an intended user of the sidewalk.
In conclusion, this case should serve to remind units of local governments that governmental immunity may not extend in every situation, even when a plaintiff’s injury occurs outside the intended or permitted use of the property.
Author: David McArdle, Jacob Caudill