No Governmental Immunity for Cyclist's Injury on Bike PathAuthor: Brad Stewart
The Illinois Supreme Court has redefined state law as to what is a qualified “trail” for purposes of the Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (“Tort Immunity Act”). The subject case, Corbett v. County of Lake, involved a bicyclist sustaining injuries arising out of an uneven area of a paved pathway that ran parallel to a railroad track and which was otherwise surrounded by commercial businesses.
The subject provision of the Tort Immunity Act states that “neither a local public entity nor a public employee is liable for an injury caused by a condition of…any hiking, riding, fishing, or hunting trail.” The history of the case was that the trial court granted the municipal defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of immunity because the path was being used as a bicycle riding trail. The appellate court overturned the trial court and ruled that a “trail,” by the court’s chosen dictionary definition, required that it be surrounded by a forest or mountainous region, which the path was clearly not.
While the Supreme Court agreed with the decision of the appellate court, it specifically rejected the definition of “trail” it used. The Supreme Court determined that the correct definition is not based on what surrounds the path but that “the legislature intended to apply blanket immunity only to primitive, rustic, or unimproved trails.” In other words, a well-marked and paved shared-use path would not qualify for immunity. The Court noted the potential absurd over-application of the immunity if it could be applied to any paved path which went through public parks just because there were trees around the path.