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01/12/87 Mary Serritos, v. the Chicago Transit

January 12, 1987





505 N.E.2d 1034, 153 Ill. App. 3d 265, 106 Ill. Dec. 243 1987.IL.12

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas E. Hoffman, Judge, presiding.


Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the court. Quinlan, P.J., and Campbell, J., concur.


The plaintiff, Mary Serritos, filed suit against defendant, the Chicago Transit Authority , alleging that she had suffered personal injuries when she slipped and fell on the icy and snow-covered steps of a bus owned and operated by defendant. Subsequently, defendant moved for summary judgment. After a hearing, the trial court found that defendant, as a common carrier, did not have a duty to remove snow or slush from the steps of its buses or to warn its passengers of that condition. Because of that finding, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of defendant. Plaintiff appeals, contending that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for defendant since there existed a factual question as to whether defendant should have been required to remove snow and slush from the steps of its bus or at least to have warned plaintiff of that condition as she attempted to alight from the bus.

Plaintiff's complaint was filed on December 31, 1979. It alleged: that on January 2, 1979, plaintiff was a passenger and invitee on a bus, owned and operated by defendant, near the intersection of 39th Street, Rockwell Street, and Archer Avenue in Chicago; that at all times relevant thereto, plaintiff was in the exercise of ordinary care for her own safety and was free from contributory negligence; that at the time and place, defendant was a common carrier which owed to plaintiff a duty to use the highest degree of care consistent with the operation of its business as a common carrier; that at the time and place defendant knew or should have known of the presence of ice, snow, and slush on the steps of its bus; that at said time and place defendant committed one or more of the following acts or omissions, all of which were the proximate cause of injury to plaintiff:

"(a) carelessly and negligently failed to remove ice and snow from the steps of said bus; and

(b) carelessly and negligently failed to warn plaintiff of the presence of ice and snow on the steps of said bus."

Thereafter, defendant served interrogatories upon plaintiff and, on August 20, 1980, plaintiff answered those interrogatories. The depositions of plaintiff, her daughter, and a witness to the accident in question, were then taken. The depositions showed the following uncontested facts: On January 2, 1979, plaintiff boarded one of defendant's buses with her daughter. On that date it was very cold and it had been snowing. There was snow on the ground, but the streets had been plowed. The bus on which plaintiff was riding stopped close to the curb at her stop. As plaintiff stepped down onto the first step in order to leave the bus, she slipped on the slush on that step. At that time, plaintiff was holding onto the handrail. However, she was unable to stop her downward motion, and she then fell inside the bus, hit the step, and then landed on the ground outside the bus. Plaintiff stated that her lower back came in contact with the aforesaid step as she fell. Once she had been helped to her feet by another passenger, the bus drove away. A myelogram of plaintiff's lower back showed that she had a herniated disk.

On April 26, 1985, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, pursuant to section 2-1005(b) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110, par. 2-1005(b)). That motion contended that the aforesaid depositions were uncontradicted; that plaintiff slipped and fell on a natural accumulation of snow that had accumulated on the steps of one of defendant's buses; that, pursuant to Illinois law, injuries sustained as a result of a slip and fall because of natural accumulations of ice and snow are not compensable as a matter of law; that because of this fact plaintiff would not be able to meet her burden of proving that defendant negligently caused the injuries complained of by plaintiff; and that under such circumstances defendant was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law since no issue of material fact existed as to the liability of defendant.

Plaintiff filed a response to the motion for summary judgment on September 23, 1985. That response pointed out that defendant, as a common carrier, owed a high degree of care to plaintiff; that in view of such a high degree of care, it was evident that the trier of fact could readily find that defendant had breached that duty by failing to remove the slush or to warn plaintiff; and that, under such circumstances, defendant was not entitled to a summary judgment.

The hearing on that motion took place on March 10, 1986. After hearing the arguments of counsel, the trial court granted a summary judgment in favor of defendant. In entering that judgment, the trial court stated:

"To provide against the danger from this source would require a large, special force involving enormous expense. The rule of nonliability for natural accumulations of ice and snow is predicated upon the fact that it is unreasonable to compel a municipality to expend money and perform the labor necessary to keep its property free from natural accumulations of ice and snow during winter months . . . It would be unrealistic and unreasonable to compel a large municipal transit authority to remove water, snow, and slush from the steps and floors of its buses and trains tracked in by its passengers as a consequence of inclement weather conditions. The required expenditure of labor and funds for this purpose would be prohibitive. Placing such a burden upon an entity like the C.T.A. would virtually require the mopping of the steps and floors after each ...

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