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Best v. Richert





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. PHILIP F. LOCKE, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied June 14, 1979.

Plaintiff-administratrix, Phyllis Best, brought this suit against defendants, Kent L. Richert, Naomi and Charles Pauley, John and Anita Rhode, and the Village of Roselle (Village), for damages in connection with the deaths of her sons, Thomas and Joseph McGill, resulting from an automobile collision on January 17, 1977. The trial court granted the motion of the Village for summary judgment. Thereafter, plaintiff was allowed to file an amended complaint which was then dismissed on the same grounds as the motion for summary judgment; the trial court found no just reason to delay the appeal. Plaintiff now brings this appeal in which the Village is the only defendant-appellee, and the sole issue raised is whether the trial court erred in granting the Village's motion for summary judgment.

• 1, 2 Walnut Street was an east-west, two-lane street that intersected Spring Street, a north-south street, in a residential area of the Village of Roselle. There was a sidewalk on the north side of Walnut Street which terminated approximately 125 feet east of Spring Street; however, it continued on the south side of Walnut Street to Spring Street. Joseph, age 16, and Thomas, age 12, were walking west on the sidewalk on the north side of Walnut Street on January 17, 1977; at 7:49 p.m. they reached the point where the sidewalk ended; they went into the street and continued west on the north side of Walnut Street, where they were struck from the rear by a car driven by defendant Richert, as he proceeded west on Walnut Street. Thomas was killed instantly; Joseph died of his injuries 10 days later.

"A motion for summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with any affidavits and exhibits, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. [Citations.] Yet the reviewing court will reverse an order granting summary judgment if it determines that a material question of fact does exist [citation] because summary judgment is inappropriate under such circumstances [citation]. The right of the moving party must be clear and free from doubt. [Citations.] In making its determination, a court must construe the pleadings strictly against the moving party and liberally in favor of the opponent [citations]; and if the facts admit of more than one conclusion or inference, including one unfavorable to the moving party, the motion for summary judgment should be denied [citations]." Presto Manufacturing Co. v. Formetal Engineering Co. (1977), 46 Ill. App.3d 7, 10, 360 N.E.2d 510, 511.

Plaintiff alleged that the sidewalk along Walnut Street was designed so that for the first half of the block it proceeded on the north side of the street; it then abruptly ended and continued for the rest of the block on the south side of the street; that there was no crosswalk or lighted or controlled passageway across Walnut Street from the point where the sidewalk ended on the one side of the street and began on the other; that at the point where the sidewalk ended on the north side of the street the ground was overgrown with trees and shrubs, making passage impossible so that pedestrians were required to detour onto the street; that thus, by designing and allowing Walnut Street to remain as described, the Village created a condition that was not reasonably safe.

Plaintiff contends first that she alleged facts sufficient to raise a jury question on the issue of negligence in the design of Walnut Street. Plaintiff concedes that the Village has no duty to install sidewalks; however, she bases her allegations of negligence on section 3-103(a) of the Tort Immunity Act which provides that while a public entity is not liable for an injury caused by the adoption of a plan or design of an improvement, there is liability where it appears from its use that a condition that is not reasonably safe has been created. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 85, par. 3-103(a).

• 3 Section 18-9(a) of the Village of Roselle Ordinances (adopted 1967) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

"(a) Sidewalks shall be constructed along the public streets at the owner's expense for each building hereafter erected within the Village, provided, however, in the event sidewalks have not been constructed to either of the side lot lines of a single lot on which such a building is being erected, then in that event the construction of such sidewalks shall be delayed until such time as a sidewalk is constructed to either side lot lines of said lot. Such sidewalks shall extend for the full frontage of all lots along the street and shall be erected in accordance with other ordinances of the Village."

It appears clear that under the provisions of the ordinance quoted from above that the individual property owners and not the Village were required to construct the sidewalks on Walnut Street.

We find no evidence that the Village undertook the construction of the sidewalks. Further, since there is no duty to install sidewalks, it would be unreasonable to require the Village to continue existing sidewalks.

Nevertheless, plaintiff argues that the Village undertook a "plan" for the improvement of Walnut Street which included the construction of a sidewalk, which renders the Village liable. While we find no evidence that the Village did adopt a plan for the construction of the sidewalks, assuming arguendo that such a plan was undertaken by the Village, the "plan" must be completed before liability can attach. In Resnik v. Michaels (1964), 52 Ill. App.2d 107, 201 N.E.2d 769, the court held that since a municipality would not be liable for failing to install traffic control devices, a municipality was not negligent and therefore not liable for installing such signs after the authorizing ordinance was passed, but before installation. This case applies here, since the liability of the Village for the uncompleted sidewalk does not attach until the improvement has been completed.

• 4 Plaintiff relies on Baran v. City of Chicago Heights (1969), 43 Ill.2d 177, 251 N.E.2d 227. In Baran, plaintiff was injured when he crashed into a tree after failing to stop at a "T" intersection. Plaintiff claimed that the intersection was improperly illuminated, that the city had placed the light so that the obstruction could not be seen. Our supreme court held that the city was not relieved of liability when the plan devised, if put into operation, leaves the city's streets in a dangerous condition for public use. Since that municipality undertook to place the light, that case is clearly distinguishable as here the Village has not undertaken anything other than the passing of the above ordinance and clearly, liability cannot attach for the exercise of this legislative function.

Practically speaking, it would be tantamount to imposing a burden of liability on municipalities that they could never hope to bear. As was stated in Deren v. City of Carbondale ...

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