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Phillips v. Chicago Housing Authority

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 4, 1980.

ELIZA PHILLIPS, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF DEBRA PHILLIPS, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

CHICAGO HOUSING AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. LOUIS J. GILIBERTO, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE ROMITI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The plaintiff's decedent, an inhabitant of a Chicago Housing Authority property, was abducted, taken to a vacant floor in the building, raped and murdered. The plaintiff sued, contending that the Housing Authority was negligent in not properly sealing off the floor. The trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice concluding that a good cause of action was not stated since the Housing Authority has no duty to protect its tenants from criminal assaults by third parties.

We reverse.

The plaintiff, Eliza Phillips, alleged in her complaint in part that:

1. Debra Phillips, the deceased, a minor, was a resident of 1119 North Cleveland, part of the Cabrini Green Housing Project, a public housing development consisting of approximately 78 buildings with 3,573 units owned, operated, maintained and controlled by the Chicago Housing Authority;

2. at the time of Debra's death and for a long time prior thereto numerous incidents of crimes of extreme violence had occurred and taken place on the premises in question in the possession and control of the defendant. These crimes include homicides of all degrees, aggravated assault, rape of adults and minors. These crimes were committed against the tenants and their families and also against their guests, invitees and licensees. In particular, crimes of rape of female minors had taken place in the specific premises of the secured room locked herein;

3. at all times mentioned herein, the defendant knew or by exercise of due care and caution should have known of the existence of these crimes;

4. at some time prior to April 2, 1977, the Chicago Housing Authority closed and locked off certain floors of the aforementioned building and locked the floors to prevent criminals that they knew or in exercise of due care and caution should have known of from entering these floors to conduct their criminal activities and to keep the premises safe for the tenants of the building;

5. on April 2, 1977, Debra was abducted by persons unknown and raped, assaulted and taken to and beaten on one of the floors allegedly secured and was thrown out of one of the windows of said floor, with fatal results;

6. at the aforesaid time and place the Chicago Housing Authority negligently and carelessly committed one or more of the following acts:

(a) kept the keys to the closed off floors in an area or place that was known to or accessible to the general public or to those criminal persons that the Chicago Housing Authority knew or should have known came on to the premises;

(b) left the keys to the elevator allowing travel to the closed off floors accessible to the general public and to those criminals that the Chicago Housing Authority knew or should have known came on to the premises;

(c) failed to inspect the elevator to determine if it had been prevented from stopping at the closed off floors;

(d) failed to inspect the doors to the closed off area to determine if the locks were working so as to bar ...


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