Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Summary Judgment for Defendants in Construction Site Injury Case

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.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that genuine issues of fact existed regarding whether the hole was an open and obvious danger and whether the distraction exception to the open and obvious danger doctrine applied. Under the open and obvious doctrine, a landowner is not required to protect visitors from any danger that is open and obvious. The distraction doctrine holds that a landowner will be required to protect against harm from open and obvious dangers when the visitor may be distracted to the point that he or she will not notice the danger, forget that it exists, or fail to take adequate protections against it. The plaintiff alleged that he walked into the hole because the sound of skidding brakes on the roadway behind him caused him to look backward. The appellate court agreed that the hole created an open and obvious danger, but it rejected the plaintiff’s reliance on the distraction doctrine. It concluded that the sound of skidding brakes was commonplace rather than exceptional. Accordingly, the appellate court uphold the trial court’s order granting summary judgment.

If you have suffered injuries as a result of a landowner’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. At Therman Law Offices, we have handled numerous premises liability actions on behalf of Illinois residents and are prepared to help you seek the compensation that you and your family deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 312-588-1900 or contact us online.

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