Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Summary Judgment for City in Pothole Trip and Fall Case

In the recent case of Barr v. Frausto, et al., the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendants, including an individual and the City of Joliet, alleging that he suffered injuries when he stepped into a hole located on a grass-covered area and fell. According to his complaint, the plaintiff was on a walk with his wife during a morning in July 2010. He was wearing running shoes and recalls traversing the paved sidewalk. A woman walking her dog was also walking on this sidewalk, approaching from the opposite direction. To make room to pass the woman and her dog, the man stepped onto a grass-covered parkway in front of the home owned by the individual defendant in the lawsuit. When he stepped onto the grassy area, the defendant fell and sustained injuries to his leg.

The plaintiff asserted a claim for negligent property maintenance against the homeowner and the city. In response to the complaint, both defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted after hearing oral arguments from all of the parties. In regard to the homeowner, the lower court concluded that she did not owe the plaintiff a duty to prevent others from suffering harm on the property owned by the city. The plaintiff appealed the lower court’s ruling in favor of the city.

In support of its motion for summary judgment, the city offered substantial evidence, including photographs, depositions, and the affidavit of the plaintiff’s expert witness. In his deposition, the plaintiff testified to numerous facts regarding his familiarity with the portion of the walkway on which he was injured. For example, the plaintiff had lived in the area for roughly six years, claimed he was familiar with the region, and stated that his wife and he walked or biked the same route roughly once per week. He also testified that he had never seen anyone performing construction or maintenance in the area where the hole was located.

The plaintiff appealed the lower court’s ruling in favor of the city. On appeal, the court concluded that the city did not have actual notice that the hole existed in the parkway. Instead, the main issue was whether the city had constructive notice. This is established based on a variety of factors, including the length of time that the dangerous condition persisted or whether it was so conspicuous that the property owner should have noticed it through reasonable diligence. The plaintiff has the burden of proving that the property owner had constructive notice. Ultimately, the appellate court stated that the plaintiff failed to show that the city had constructive notice of the hole located in the parkway and upheld the lower court’s grant of summary judgment in the city’s favor.

If you have been injured as a result of a dangerous condition on another party’s property, you may be entitled to compensation. At the Therman Law Offices, our knowledgeable personal injury and premises liability attorneys have assisted victims throughout Illinois and are prepared to help you assert your rights. We offer a free consultation, so call us now at 312-588-1900 or contact us online.

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