The Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Act) is one reason why it is difficult to prevail against municipalities in a suit for personal injury. 745 ILCS 10/3-102(a) (West 2010). The tort liability of a municipality is governed by the Act. The main purpose of the Act is to protect local governments from liability arising out of the operation of government. Vesey v. Chicago Housing Authority, 145 Ill. 2d 404, 411-12 (1991). As such, it provides affirmative defenses and immunities to local governmental entities and their employees. Id. The Act provides that a local government “shall not be liable for injury unless it is proven that it has actual or constructive notice of the existence of such a condition that is not reasonably safe in reasonably adequate time prior to an injury to have taken measures to remedy or protect against such condition.” 745 ILCS 10/3-102(a) (West 2010).
Recently, in the case of Zameer v. City of Chicago, 2013 IL App (1st) 120198, the Appellate Courts upheld a grant of summary judgment for the City of Chicago. In Zameer the Plaintiff tripped and fell on a crack in a sidewalk where the difference in height was approximately 2 inches. Id. at ¶ 4. The central issue in the case became the notice requirement under the Tort Immunity Act. Specifically, it was proved during discovery that there were complaints of a crack in the sidewalk in 2005; however, that section of sidewalk was shown to have been repaired by a construction company sometime in 2008. Id. at ¶ 7-8. Testimony from one of the City’s civil engineers also established that there was no way to tell when the crack came into existence. Id. at ¶ 6. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant, City of Chicago, based on the Tort Immunity Act. Id. at ¶ 2. This decision was upheld by the Appellate court. Id.
What does all of this mean if you trip and fall on a public sidewalk? It means that the local governmental entity will have the ability to raise the Tort Immunity Act as an affirmative defense in your case. More importantly, this means that the local governmental entity must have had actual or constructive notice of the defect before the incident. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to prevail on a claim like the Zameer case; however, it does mean that a plaintiff has a higher hurdle to leap in showing that the local governmental entity knew that there was a dangerous condition and allowed it to exist.
The only way to know is to talk to an attorney who can analyze the facts of your case and help to make that determination. As with all cases, I’m here to assist you. Feel free to call or e-mail today!