Articles Posted in Premises Accidents

Pothole in PavementTrip and fall accidents can have serious and painful consequences for the victim. Although this type of accident may seem minor, the injuries that result can leave you with a lifetime of pain and disabilities. At Therman Law Office, our seasoned team of Chicago premises liability lawyers has confidently assisted numerous victims with asserting their rights following a trip and fall injury.

As a recent appellate opinion demonstrates, many of these accidents take place on a city-owned property. The plaintiff in the action brought a negligence claim against the City of Aurora, alleging that she was injured when she tripped in a depression located in a section of asphalt in a parking lot at a train station. The jury initially returned a verdict in her favor, but the court intervened due to one of the responses that the jury provided on its special verdict form. The question asked whether the depression in the asphalt had a vertical difference of 1.5 inches or less, and the jury responded yes to this question. The court concluded that as a result of this response, the dangerous condition was de minimis and entered a judgment in favor of the defendant.

The plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider its decision, but the court denied the motion, restating that the defendant had no duty to guard against de minimis hazards. The plaintiff appealed, alleging that the lower court erred in providing the special interrogatory to the jury and that the question the court used to enter a verdict in favor of the defendants was not dispositive of the ultimate fact of whether the depression was a dangerous condition on the property. The plaintiff also argued that there were aggravating factors at play that rendered the depression a dangerous condition, even if it was 1.5 inches or less in height difference from the surrounding asphalt. More specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the aggravating factors consisted of a high-volume pedestrian area at the train station that made it more difficult to notice the depression.

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staircase and stoopSlip and fall accidents can cause serious and permanent injuries for a victim. This type of accident can occur on virtually any type of premises, including your apartment building if it is not maintained in appropriate condition. As seasoned Chicago slip and fall lawyers, the attorneys at Therman Law Offices are ready to guide you through the legal process and to help you seek the compensation that you deserve.

In a recent lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that he slipped and fell on a staircase and stoop area outside his apartment complex, resulting in a serious injury to his left leg. The injury required multiple surgeries to address. In his complaint seeking compensation for the injuries, the plaintiff alleged that the apartment complex was owned and operated by an association of condominium owners. He also alleged that these owners had a duty to maintain the staircase and stoop area in a safe manner according to Illinois’ Condominium Property Act. The plaintiff also pointed to the bylaws and declaration of the owner group, which provided for the maintenance and repair of the so-called “Common Elements” at the premises.

The plaintiff’s allegations also stated that the owner group and the entities that it had hired to construct and maintain the location of the accident did not respond to numerous complaints regarding the slippery nature of the staircase and stoop prior to when the injury occurred.

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potholes in roadOne of the most common types of injuries that Chicago residents experience are slip and fall accidents. As seasoned Illinois slip and fall lawyers, we have reviewed many cases involving these accidents and know exactly what it takes to ensure that you receive the full amount of compensation that you are owed. One of the most difficult aspects of any trip and fall case is determining whether the defect that caused your injury was a defect that the defendant should have either addressed or warned against.

A recent lawsuit highlights the importance of this issue. The plaintiff alleged that she suffered injuries after stepping into a pothole located in a parking lot, resulting in a fall. The plaintiff brought a lawsuit against the purported owners of the parking lot, an LLC and a Corporation. The plaintiff claimed that the defendants failed to maintain the parking lot and failed to provide a warning against the pothole. Both defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which asks the court to conclude that there are no factual disputes and that the party bringing the motion is entitled to judgment in its favor.

In their motion, the defendants argued that the pothole was de minimis and that it did not rise to the level of a defect for the plaintiff’s claim. More specifically, the defendants stated that any defect that is under two inches tall cannot be considered an actionable defect in a premises liability case. The defendants offered testimony from the owner of both the LLC and the Corporation. In his testimony, he alleged that the pothole was roughly half an inch. The trial court took this statement of fact as uncontroverted.

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spiral wooden staircaseOne of the most common types of premises liability cases that we handle as Chicago personal injury attorneys are cases involving faulty or dangerous staircases. In a recent Illinois Court of Appeal opinion, the plaintiff alleged that she suffered injuries when she fell down a staircase comprised of 15 wooden steps. The plaintiff alleged that her injuries occurred because the staircase did not contain a handrail on both sides of the stairs. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the property owners, alleging that they failed to meet their duty of care in ensuring that the staircase was safe and that they failed to provide adequate warnings about the staircase’s alleged danger. As far as injuries, the plaintiff suffered a fracture that required surgery and incurred a total of $240,000 in medical costs, according to her complaint.

During the discovery phase of the trial, the plaintiff testified that she could not identify or recall what caused her to lose her balance and fall down the staircase. The plaintiff testified instead that she recalled “flying through the air trying to get my grip or balance myself” but that there wasn’t anything for her to grab. The plaintiff also testified that she believed she would have been able to regain her balance had there been a handrail for her to grab. The plaintiff presented a building inspector as a witness who inspected the stairway. He provided an expert opinion indicating that the lack of adequate handrails violated Chicago’s Municipal Code 13-160-320(a) and 13-160-320(b).

The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, stating that the fact that the plaintiff did not know what caused her fall precluded her from proving that her injuries were a result of the defendant’s alleged negligence. The plaintiff refuted this, stating that her testimony regarding the impact of the inadequate handrails created a question of material fact rendering summary judgment inappropriate. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

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Gold shopping cartsGoing up against big corporations and businesses can be intimidating, especially if you are entitled to compensation for painful injuries that you sustained as a result of their negligence. At Therman Law Offices, our Chicago premises liability lawyers represent slip and fall accident victims and aren’t afraid to provide the tenacious and assertive legal representation that a powerful defendant may require.

Slip and fall cases are common in a bustling state like Illinois. A recent Illinois appellate court opinion considered the liability of a large national retailer for a customer’s slip and fall injuries. In her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that she slipped and fell on a pool of liquid that had accumulated on the retail establishment’s floor. The plaintiff asserted a claim for basic negligence and a claim based on the Illinois Premises Liability Act. The defendant denied the allegations in the complaint and asserted an affirmative defense, contending that it could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries because she slipped on what it described as “a natural accumulation of ice, snow or rainwater.”

The litigation proceeded to discovery, and the record included evidence suggesting that it was snowing on the day the incident occurred, that the shopping carts stored outside were covered in ice and snow, and that the defendant’s employees brought these carts into the store, where the water and melting ice accumulated.

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cracked city sidewalkAs seasoned Chicago personal injury lawyers, we have assisted many Illinois residents with seeking compensation after suffering injuries due to someone else’s carelessness. One of the most common types of claims that we handle is a slip and fall case. Although these actions may seem straightforward, they can become rather complicated. In a recent Illinois Court of Appeal opinion, the plaintiff suffered injuries when she tripped and fell on a sidewalk in front of a restaurant. The plaintiff brought a personal injury action against the restaurant, alleging that she sustained injuries as a result of an uneven sidewalk in front of the restaurant. The husband joined the lawsuit, asserting a claim for loss of consortium. The plaintiffs also sued the City of Chicago.

During the discovery phase of the litigation, the plaintiffs filed a motion to compel discovery from the City on a variety of issues. The plaintiffs sought customer service records regarding the property, licensing documents from the City, a stipulation that the City had no pending plans to repair the sidewalk, a list of all of the employees who worked at the restaurant, all permitting documents regarding the property, any citations that the restaurant received in the years prior to the incident, and other documents. The City produced reports regarding complaints associated with the sidewalk but declined to produce any additional documents. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion to compel, and the court did not include a hearing transcript or other information regarding the arguments that the parties submitted at the motion hearing.

The defendants both moved for summary judgment soon thereafter. The City alleged that it did not owe a duty to the plaintiff because the sidewalk defect was negligible and that there was no evidence in the record that the City had knowledge or should have had knowledge of the defect. The lower court granted both the City’s and the restaurant’s motions for summary judgment, indicating that the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence indicating that the City had actual or constructive notice of the sidewalk’s alleged defects. The plaintiffs filed a motion seeking a reconsideration of the lower court’s rulings on the motions and a motion to reopen discovery on the issue of notice in the alternative. The lower court denied both motions.

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wet city sidewalkIn a recent opinion from the Illinois Court of Appeals for the Fourth District, the plaintiff filed an action against the City of Danville (“the City”), alleging that she suffered injuries as a result of a trip and fall accident that occurred on a sidewalk area maintained by the City. According to her complaint, the plaintiff was shopping on one afternoon in 2012. When returning to her parked vehicle after leaving a store in the downtown district, she used a sidewalk to get to her vehicle, which was parked roughly five storefronts away. Then, the plaintiff walked at an angle as she approached the curb where her vehicle was parked. As she did so, she alleges that she stepped into roughly of an inch of water pooling on the sidewalk and to the right side of a lamppost embedded in the sidewalk. As she stepped into the water, the plaintiff claims that her left shoe struck an object that caused her to lose her balance. She then fell forward, striking her chin on the sidewalk.

The plaintiff received nine stitches in her chin to close the wound. Her complaint also alleged that she suffered severe bruising to her left foot, face, and arms. During the fall, two of her teeth were chipped, and she required dental work to address this injury. She also claimed to have suffered a partially dislodged crown that was also treated by a dentist.

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stop sign postIn a recent opinion from the Second District of the Appellate Court of Illinois, the plaintiff appealed a lower court’s ruling granting the defendant summary judgment based on the doctrine of judicial estoppel. According to this widely recognized legal principle, a party is precluded from taking a position in a legal proceeding that is contrary to a position he or she has taken in an earlier legal proceeding.

The facts of the case are as follows. The plaintiff asserted three causes of action against the defendant, alleging that he suffered injuries while shopping at the defendant’s store. Before filing the complaint against the store, the plaintiff and his wife filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding. In the filing, the plaintiff stated that he had no “[o]ther contingent and unliquidated claims of any nature” and denied having any “other property of any kind not already listed.” Some time thereafter, the plaintiff amended the bankruptcy petition to list the alleged claim against the store as a potential claim of an unliquidated nature. As for an estimated value of the claim, the plaintiff listed $15,000. The plaintiff chose this amount based on section 12-1001(h)(4) of the Code of Civil Procedure, which provides an exemption for a debtor to receive payment not exceeding $15,000 on a claim for personal injury to the debtor.

The bankruptcy court discharged the plaintiff’s petition before the plaintiff initiated the lawsuit against the store. In response, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s claims, stating that the plaintiff had no standing to sue because the rights to the claim belonged to the bankruptcy trustee. In response, the plaintiff stated in an affidavit that at the time he filed for bankruptcy, he was unsure whether he would pursue legal action against the store. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on judicial estoppel.

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Sinkhole in streetIn a recent case decided by the Sixth Division of the Illinois Appellate Court, the plaintiff alleged that he suffered injuries as a result of an improperly maintained pothole in the roadway. In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged that he was driving his vehicle along a roadway maintained by the City of Chicago (“the City”) when a sinkhole opened up in the road. He also claimed that his entire vehicle fell into the sinkhole. During his deposition, the plaintiff testified that only the rear portion of his vehicle sank into the sinkhole. Following the accident, the plaintiff contacted 911 and was transported to a hospital to treat his various injuries. The plaintiff alleged in the complaint that his vehicle was impounded by the City and later destroyed without a proper provision of notice.

The plaintiff asserted two causes of action against the City. First, he claimed that the city was negligent in its maintenance of the roadway and that it failed to repair defects that it knew or should have known posed a risk of harm to the public.

Second, he asserted a claim for Res Ipsa Loquitur. This legal principle states that the occurrence of the accident implies that negligence was responsible, meaning the accident could not have happened but for a negligent act. The Latin phrase means “the thing speaks for itself.” In an appropriately pleaded Res Ipsa Loquitur claim, the plaintiff is able to assert a rebuttable presumption that the defendant acted negligently. There are three elements the plaintiff must prove:  that the accident would not ordinarily occur without negligence, that the device that caused the injury to occur was under the defendant’s control, and that there is no other plausible explanation for the accident.

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yellow construction signIn a recent case, the plaintiff filed an appeal after a trial court issued an order granting summary judgment for the defendants in the plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit. In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged that in December 2012, the defendant was building a gasoline station on land owned by another defendant. The plaintiff contended that he was walking along a sidewalk near the intersection where construction was taken place when he “suddenly and without warning fell violently into a hole, sustaining serious injuries.”

The complaint also alleged that one of the defendants controlled the construction site and owed him a duty to use reasonable care in maintaining and securing the premises to ensure that pedestrians passing by the area or through the area would be safe. The allegations also contended that the defendants failed to conduct appropriate inspections of the premises to ensure that it was safe, failed to place warning signs to identify the hole, and failed to repair the hole. Finally, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant in charge of the site knew or should have known that pedestrians would be passing through the area and that the hole posed an unreasonable danger to their safety.

In responding to the complaint, the defendants admitted that they owned the site and that they were conducting construction activities, but they argued that the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to his injuries. The doctrine of contributory negligence allows a jury to consider whether the plaintiff’s negligent conduct contributed to the ultimate harm. In Illinois, if the jury concludes that the plaintiff’s negligence caused 51% or more of his or her injuries, the plaintiff will be barred from recovering any damages from the defendants. Specifically, the defendants argued that the plaintiff was negligent by failing to keep a proper lookout while traversing the sidewalk, by voluntarily walking through the construction site, by failing to appreciate the open and obvious danger that the hole posed, and by trespassing on the construction site. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment based on these contentions, which the trial court granted.

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