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Adamczyk v. Township High School District 214

July 27, 2001

DIANE ADAMCZYK, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT 214, DEFENDANT AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE (BUFFALO GROVE PARK DISTRICT, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT-APPELLEE; BUFFALO GROVE HIGH SCHOOL, DEFENDANT)



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 97-L-2088 Honorable Michael J. Hogan, Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Theis

UNPUBLISHED

Diane Adamczyk brought a negligence action against Township High School District 214 (the School District) and Buffalo Grove High School *fn1 after she was injured in the parking lot of the school. The circuit court granted the School District's motion for summary judgment, ruling that Adamczyk's claim was barred by section 3-106 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Tort Immunity Act) (745 ILCS 10/3-106 (West 1996)). We reverse and remand.

On Sunday, March 24, 1996, Adamczyk was injured when she fell in a hole in the parking lot of Buffalo Grove High School. The parking lot was located near the front entrance of the school and provided access to the gymnasium, front entrance and visitor parking. At the time of her fall, Adamczyk's son had just finished playing basketball in the gymnasium as part of a Buffalo Grove Park District (the Park District) sponsored league.

Adamczyk filed a single-count negligence complaint against both the school and the School District. The School District filed a motion to dismiss based on section 3-106 of the Tort Immunity Act, which was denied. The School District next filed a motion for summary judgment based in part on section 3-106 of the Tort Immunity Act, which was also denied. The School District then filed a third-party action against the Park District for contribution, breach of contract and contractual indemnity, contending that the Park District leased the facilities at Buffalo Grove High School from the School District at the time of Adamczyk's injury and was therefore liable.

The Park District filed a combined motion to dismiss the third-party complaint pursuant to sections 2-619 and 2-615 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, partly based on section 3-106 of the Tort Immunity Act. 735 ILCS 5/2-619, 2-615 (West 1996). In its response to the combined motion to dismiss, the School District agreed with a portion of the motion and argued that section 3-106 immunity applied to immunize both the School District and the Park District. The trial court then chose to consider this motion as both the Park District's motion to dismiss the third-party complaint and as the School District's motion to reconsider its motion for summary judgment on the original complaint, narrowing the issue to section 3-106 immunity. The court granted the School District's motion to reconsider, granted summary judgment in favor of the School District, granted the Park District's motion to dismiss and dismissed the third-party complaint with prejudice. Adamczyk then filed this timely appeal.

Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, depositions, admissions, and affidavits on file present no genuine issue of material fact and show that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West 1998); Jones v. Chicago HMO Ltd., 191 Ill. 2d 278, 291, 730 N.E.2d 1119, 1127 (2000). We review a grant of summary judgment de novo, construing the evidence in the record strictly against the movant and liberally in favor of the opponent. Jackson v. TLC Associates, Inc., 185 Ill. 2d 418, 424, 706 N.E.2d 460, 463 (1998); Wallace v. Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, 302 Ill. App. 3d 573, 576, 707 N.E.2d 140, 142 (1998).

The sole issue on appeal is whether section 3-106 of the Tort Immunity Act applies to the parking lot of a public high school, thereby immunizing the school district and park district from liability for ordinary negligence and barring plaintiff's claim.

Section 3-102 of the Tort Immunity Act imposes a general duty on local public entities to exercise ordinary care in maintaining public property in a reasonably safe condition. 745 ILCS 10/3-102(a) (West 1996); Bubb v. Springfield School District 186, 167 Ill. 2d 372, 377, 657 N.E.2d 887, 891 (1995). Section 3-106, however, provides public entities with an affirmative defense which bars a plaintiff's right to recovery for ordinary negligence. That section states:

"Neither a local public entity nor a public employee is liable for an injury where the liability is based on the existence of a condition of any public property intended or permitted to be used for recreational purposes, including but not limited to parks, playgrounds, open areas, buildings or other enclosed recreational facilities, unless such local entity or public employee is guilty of willful and wanton conduct proximately causing such injury." 745 ILCS 10/3-106 (West 1996).

It is undisputed that the School District and the Park District are local public entities and Buffalo Grove High School is public property. Further, Adamczyk's complaint alleged only negligence and not willful and wanton conduct.

Section 3-106 was enacted to encourage the development and maintenance of public parks, playgrounds and similar recreational areas. Kayser v. Village of Warren, 303 Ill. App. 3d 198, 200, 707 N.E.2d 285, 287 (1999). "By providing immunity, the legislature sought to prevent the diversion of public funds from their intended purpose to the payment of damage claims." Bubb, 167 Ill. 2d at 378, 657 N.E.2d at 891. The statute, however, does not mention public schools.

Courts have applied two separate analyses in determining whether property is immune under section 3-106: (1) whether the property itself is intended or permitted to be used for recreational purposes; and (2) whether the property in question, though not itself recreational, increases the usefulness of the adjacent recreational property. The School District and the Park District concede that the issue here is not whether the parking lot is intended or permitted to be used for recreational purposes, but whether the parking lot increases the usefulness of the gymnasium.

The question of whether the parking lot of a public school is immune under section 3-106 is one of first impression for this court. Adamczyk contends that Buffalo Grove High School's regular purpose was educational and, while the gymnasium was recreational property, the parking lot was merely incidental to the use of the gymnasium and, therefore, section 3-106 immunity does not apply. The School District and the Park District together argue that the school gymnasium constituted recreational property on the date and time of Adamczyk's injury, the parking lot near the ...


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