Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Dismissal of Premises Liability Action against Park District Involving Willful and Wanton Conduct Allegations

As the warm season approaches, Illinois residents may be considering some of their favorite summer activities. Although many of us engage in things like camping, fishing, swimming, biking, and hiking, few of us realize that these activities can lead to serious and painful personal injuries. The entities that are responsible for maintaining public recreation areas can be held responsible if their failure to maintain the area in a safe and reasonable condition leads to your injury. At Therman Law Offices, our Chicago premises liability lawyers are prepared to help you evaluate your potential claim and to ensure that the responsible entities are held accountable for the financial damages that you deserve.

In a recent claim, the Illinois Court of Appeal considered whether the lower court properly dismissed the plaintiffs’ amended complaint with prejudice. The complaint alleged that a local park district willfully and wantonly caused the plaintiff’s personal injuries. A complaint dismissed with prejudice means that the parties cannot refile the claim.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that they had met with officials at the park to determine whether they would book it for their upcoming wedding. The employees described the camp rules during this meeting, took the plaintiffs on a tour, and explained that they could rent one particular campsite that featured two poles. The employees alleged that the poles could be used for the event, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs rented the campsite and attached a camping hammock to the poles. One of the poles broke and caused the plaintiff to suffer injuries.

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss in response to the complaint alleging that it was immune from negligence suits under the state’s government tort immunity act, which only allows a municipality to be held liable for injuries involving recreational areas if wanton and willful conduct was involved. It argued that the complaint did not allege facts showing that the defendants were willful and wanton. The lower court granted the motion to dismiss and the plaintiffs appealed.

On review, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision finding that there was no dispute that the property in question was a recreational property for the purposes of the tort immunity act. Next, it noted that willful and wanton conduct is defined under the act as conduct that shows an utter indifference or conscious disregard for the safety of others and their property. It must be more than incompetence. Based on the facts in the plaintiff’s complaint, the appellate court concluded that there was a question of fact regarding whether the park was willful and wanton. The park was aware that the poles were over four decades old, and the park had implemented a policy prohibiting hammocks and other objects hanging from park property.

If you were injured on another person’s property whether it be privately owned or publicly owned you may be entitled to compensation in a premises liability lawsuit. It can be intimidating to think about filing a civil lawsuit but the expenses that are incurred as a result of someone else’s negligence can be severe, including medical bills, lost wages, and reduced earning capacity. To learn more about your potential right to compensation, contact the Chicago premises liability lawyers of Therman Law Offices at 773-545-8849 or contact us online to get started.