Illinois Supreme Court Shovels Away the Snow and Ice Removal Act

It can be very difficult to prevail in a personal injury case involving a slip and fall on snow or ice on residential property. If you have been injured in a fall on snow or ice, it is critical that you retain an attorney that is aware of all of the pitfalls that could prevent recovery. Without experienced counsel, there is a good chance the insurance company’s attorney will successively persuade the Court to dismiss your case before trial. Thankfully, the Illinois Supreme Court recently made it a little more difficult for the insurance companies to prevail in slip and fall claims involving snow and ice on residential property.

In general, residential property owners have no duty to remove natural accumulations of snow or ice. However, in order to encourage residential property owners to clear their sidewalks and driveway, the Illinois Legislature passed the Snow and Ice Removal Act. 745 ILCS 75/1, 2 (West 2010). The Snow and Ice Removal Act provides that a residential property owner is not liable for injuries caused by her negligent removal of snow and ice (shoveling, snow blowing, salting, etc.). This immunity provided to residential property owners makes it very difficult to bring a successful claim against the owner for injuries resulting from a fall on snow or ice. To complicate matters further, some courts expanded the immunity provided by the Snow and Ice Removal Act to negligent design and maintenance of a property. Ryan v. Glen Ellyn Raintree Condominium Assoc’, 2014 IL (2d) 130682. In cases like Ryan, the court went as far as to hold that the plaintiff could not recover even though the negligent design of the building or sidewalk (rather than negligent shoveling, snow blowing or salting) caused an unnatural accumulation of water that led to the formation of ice.

Thankfully, the Illinois Supreme Court overruled Ryan and cases like it in the Court’s recent 2016 decision Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services. 2016 IL 120394. In Murph-Hylton, the Court held that the Snow and Ice Removal Act does not prevent an injured party from bringing a claim against a residential property owner if the property owner created a dangerous condition of snow and ice through his negligent maintenance or design of the property. In Murphy-Hylton, the plaintiff claimed that the ice at issue formed as a result of a negligently designed sloping sidewalk. Id. ¶ 35. Therefore, the Court held that because plaintiff’s claim asserted a negligent design and did not involve allegations of negligent snow and ice removal activities, the property owner’s immunity pursuant to the Snow and Ice Removal Act did not apply. Id. The Court’s definitive ruling on this issue is a big victory for injured parties because it limits the immunities of property owners who cause hazardous conditions on their property. However, it is of the utmost importance that you hire counsel who understands the nuances of this area of law and knows how to present your case properly in court. The failure to hire competent counsel in a case involving a slip and fall on snow or ice could very easily result in your case being dismissed before you have your just day in court.

If you have been an injured in accident, please contact Joe Vito at 847-705-7555 or jvito@lavellelaw.com to discuss your case and get you the compensation you deserve.