As many of you know, there is an Illinois statute which shields property owners from liability for having created unnatural accumulations of ice and snow where they have made efforts to remove snow and ice from sidewalks abutting residential property. There is an exception to this protection where the property owner’s alleged misconduct was willful and wanton. The Illinois statute changes the law of liability in this area which under the common law had traditionally held owners of residential property liable for having created such conditions under all circumstances.
Recently, an Illinois appellate court held that a residential property owner was not liable where they had created this unnatural condition of ice and snow by not removing unnatural accumulations from a sidewalk at the rear of the premises. The claimant in that case did not allege that the property owner was aware or considered the snow and ice mounds to be dangerous, nor did she allege that there had been any complaints from others about the unnatural accumulation, or that there had been any other injuries as a result of the snow and ice mounds. What may have influenced the court was the fact that they had hired outside contractors to remove the ice and snow and may have not had actual knowledge of the condition. It is possible that had the accumulations been created by an employee of the residential property owner, that the decision might have gone the other way.
Good to know if not this year, but maybe next. Didn’t we Chicagoans dodge a bullet! Don’t get complacent. It’s not time to build your winter home in Chicago.