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09/12/96 DEANNA CORNING v. EAST OAKLAND TOWNSHIP

September 12, 1996

DEANNA CORNING, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
EAST OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, RANDY STRADER, AND COLES COUNTY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Coles County. No. 95L77. Honorable Paul C. Komada, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication October 11, 1996. As Corrected October 18, 1996.

Honorable Robert W. cook, P.j., Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J. - Concur, Honorable James A. Knecht, J. - Concur. Presiding Justice Cook delivered the opinion of the court:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cook

PRESIDING JUSTICE COOK delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff Deanna Corning was injured when she drove her automobile through a rural "T" intersection and into a ditch. Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendants East Oakland Township, Randy Strader (the township's road supervisor), and Coles County, alleging that her injuries resulted from defendants' failure to maintain the intersection in a reasonably safe condition. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that the intersection had become unreasonably dangerous because a stop sign erected by defendants had been removed by persons unknown and not replaced. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, contending that they were shielded from liability under sections 2-201 and 3-104 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Act) (745 ILCS 10--201, 3-104 (West 1994)). The trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. We reverse and remand.

For purposes of review of the complaint's legal sufficiency, we take all well-pleaded facts as true. Straub v. City of Mt. Olive, 240 Ill. App. 3d 967, 973, 607 N.E.2d 672, 676, 180 Ill. Dec. 603 (1993). The accident occurred at approximately 1:47 a.m. on August 4, 1994, at the intersection of county roads 2050 North and 2400 East. County Road 2050 North runs north-south for a short distance, then curves to the west for northbound traffic approximately 200 yards to the east of its intersection with 2400 East. Defendants erected an arrow sign to indicate that the road curves. At the point of intersection, 2400 East runs north-south and 2050 North runs east-west. The roads come together as a "T," with 2050 North temporarily ending at the intersection. A drainage ditch runs parallel to 2400 East on the road's west side. At the time of the accident, the intersection was unlit and obscured from motorists' view by tall corn growing in the surrounding fields.

Defendants had erected a stop sign at the intersection for westbound travelers on 2050 North, but it had been removed by persons unknown. The sign post was left standing. Plaintiff does not know how long the sign was missing, but she alleges that it was missing a sufficient period of time that defendants should have discovered its absence during the normal course of road maintenance. Without a stop sign, the intersection became dangerous because motorists were likely to drive straight through. Plaintiff, who was unfamiliar with the roads, drove through the intersection and into the drainage ditch parallel to 2400 East.

Plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that defendants breached the following duties: (1) they failed to exercise ordinary care to maintain the intersection, (2) they failed to have a reasonable inspection system of signs and traffic control devices, (3) they failed to maintain the stop sign in a legible manner, (4) they failed to discover that the sign was missing, (5) they failed to replace the stop sign, (6) they failed to erect the stop sign in such a manner to make its removal by vandals or acts of nature unlikely, and (7) they failed to warn plaintiff of the dangerous condition caused by the missing sign by posting barricades or other traffic control devices. The complaint contained two counts against each defendant, one premised on negligence, the other premised on wilful and wanton misconduct.

The trial court found that the Act afforded defendants immunity, and it dismissed the complaint. It is unclear whether the court believed the defendants immune under section 2-201, section 3-104, or both. 745 ILCS 10/2-201, 3-104 (West 1994). We hold that section 2-201 is inapplicable, and section 3-104 provides defendant with only a partial shield.

The Act governs the tort liability of local government entities and their employees. The Act confers no new duties; rather, it delineates certain immunities. West v. Kirkham, 147 Ill. 2d 1, 14, 588 N.E.2d 1104, 1110, 167 Ill. Dec. 974 (1992). Not all common law duties are abrogated by the Act. Section 3-102 codifies the common law duty of local public entities to maintain their property in reasonably safe condition. Swett v. Village of Algonquin, 169 Ill. App. 3d 78, 92, 523 N.E.2d 594, 604, 119 Ill. Dec. 838 (1988). The common law duty to maintain did not extend to creating or erecting public improvements. West, 147 Ill. 2d at 14, 588 N.E.2d at 1110. However, once having undertaken the construction of public highways and traffic control devices, public entities have a duty to install and maintain them with reasonable care. Ellison v. Village of Northbrook, 272 Ill. App. 3d 559, 563, 650 N.E.2d 1059, 1062, 209 Ill. Dec. 86 (1995).

Plaintiff has adequately alleged that she was injured as a proximate result of defendants' failure to maintain their stop sign. Defendants contend, however, that their failure to maintain and replace the missing sign was a discretionary act, and such exercises of discretion are afforded immunity under the Act.

Sections 2-109 and 2-201 of the Act provide:

"A local public entity is not liable for an injury resulting from an act or omission of its employee where the employee is not liable." 745 ILCS 10/2-109 (West 1994).

"Except as otherwise provided by Statute, a public employee serving in a position involving the determination of policy or the exercise of discretion is not liable for an injury resulting from his act or omission in determining policy when acting in the exercise of ...


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