In Corbett v. The County of Lake and The City of Highland Park, the plaintiff alleged that she sustained serious injuries when she was riding her bike on a path located in Lake County. Following the accident, the plaintiff filed a claim against multiple defendants, alleging that they were responsible for her injuries, which resulted from defects in the bike path. The plaintiff named the County of Lake and the City of Highland Park as defendants. Both defendants filed motions for summary judgment, which the trial court granted based on the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (the Act).
The plaintiff filed an appeal challenging the trial court’s order granting the City’s motion for summary judgment. In her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants were in control of the bike path and were responsible for its maintenance. The City was responsible for maintaining certain sections of the path. Prior to the date the accident occurred, the defendants were on notice that weeds and other vegetation had grown through the asphalt, rendering portions of the path bumpy, elevated, or broken. The plaintiff claimed that the defendants were willfully indifferent to the danger that this created.
In its answer, the City asserted that it had immunity under section 3-107(b) of the Act, which states, “Neither a local public entity nor a public employee is liable for an injury caused by a condition of . . . [a]ny hiking, riding, fishing, or hunting trail.” According to the city, the bike path constituted a riding trail. The plaintiff rejected this interpretation, stating that Illinois courts have interpreted the meaning of a riding trail differently from the City’s proposed interpretation.
Reviewing case law interpreting section 3-107(b), the appellate court concluded that a riding trail must “not only be used by bicyclists (or hikers or both) but be located within a forest or mountainous region.” Accordingly, the City’s suggested interpretation was incorrect. Testimony and evidence offered throughout the litigation made it clear that the path on which the plaintiff was riding was not located in a forest or mountainous region. Additionally, the presence of residential and industrial developments surrounding a path negates any suggestion that the path is located in a scenic or wooded area.
Furthermore, the appellate court noted that the spirit of the exception in 3-107(b) was to alleviate municipalities from the expense and burden of maintaining trails located in these distant areas, typically presenting rough terrain. Such a consideration does not apply to a bike or hiking path located in the middle of an easily accessible, developed area. Accordingly, the court reversed the order granting summary judgment for the City and remanded the action for additional proceedings.
At Therman Law Offices, we have counseled numerous Illinois residents in matters involving premises liability claims, including actions against government entities. Our seasoned, compassionate, and diligent team of professionals understands how stressful this situation is for you. We offer a free consultation to help you learn about your legal options and are prepared to help you ensure that your rights are protected at every step of the process. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 312-588-1900 or contact us online.