Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Summary Judgment for Landowner in Trip and Fall Trespassing Case

Landowners owe a duty to guests to ensure that the property is reasonably safe and to provide warnings against any known dangerous conditions. This duty changes, however, if the person injured was a trespasser at the time of the accident. As a defense to premise liability claims some defendants will attempt to argue that the plaintiff was trespassing or that the plaintiff did not fall within a class of people to whom it owed a duty. As dedicated Chicago personal injury lawyers, we are here to help you ensure that you receive the fair treatment and compensation that you deserve.

Recently, the Illinois Court of Appeal considered a case in which the plaintiff reportedly fell while walking through a walkway at a hotel that the defendant owned. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit seeking damages. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiff was a trespasser and that it did not owe her a duty of care when she decided to take a shortcut to her office building by walking through the defendant’s property. The plaintiff alleged that summary judgment was not proper and that the defendant owed her a duty of care. The trial court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint. The plaintiff appealed.

On review, the appellate court reversed finding that there was a question of fact regarding whether plaintiff may have been a lawful pedestrian on the walkway located on the defendant’s driveway. Although the defendant owned the property and the plaintiff was not a guest at the hotel, the court found that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care under the frequent trespass exception. In short, the exception states that where a landowner is aware that trespassers frequently use a portion of their property, a duty arises to ensure the safety of those trespassers.

Evidence in the record showed that the driveway was in a degraded state for a substantial period of time, with differences in height that created a tripping hazard. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the plaintiff was a trespasser due to the fact that she was not a guest or patron of the hotel.

During her deposition, the plaintiff testified that several other people were walking through the driveway in the same manner that the plaintiff had on several prior occasions. She also testified that as she stepped onto the curb the uneven pavement caused her to fall. She also testified that the walkway featured many markings that made it seem like a pedestrian walkway including signs that said “no vehicles allowed” and “Pedway.” Based on this evidence, the appellate court concluded that there was a question of fact regarding whether the defendant allowed pedestrian usage of its driveway that should have been submitted to the jury.

If you were injured on someone else’s property, it is important that you speak to a knowledgeable Chicago slip and fall lawyer as soon as possible. At Therman Law Offices, we offer a free consultation to help you learn more about your rights and whether you may be entitled to compensation. Call us now at 773-545-8849 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.