Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lawrence County. No. 96-L-17 Honorable Robert M. Hopkins, Judge, presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Goldenhersh
Carrie S. Manuel (plaintiff) filed a four-count complaint in the circuit court of Lawrence County. Red Hill Community Unit School District #10 was named as a defendant in counts I and III. Red Hill Community Unit School District #10 Board of Education (defendant) was named in counts II and IV. Defendant moved to dismiss. Counts I and III were dismissed for the failure to name a proper party. See 105 ILCS 5/10-2 (West 1998). The court denied the motion in regard to counts II and IV. Defendant filed a motion to reconsider. On reconsideration, the court entered an order granting defendant's motion and dismissed counts II and IV. Plaintiff appeals the order dismissing counts II and IV. The appeal raises several issues. We reverse and remand.
In her complaint, plaintiff alleged that on the evening of January 5, 1996, she was asked by Hank Ginder, a teacher employed by defendant, to serve soft drinks and work in a concession stand during a basketball game at Red Hill High School. Plaintiff, a student of the district at the time, was at least 18 years of age, suffered from cerebral palsy, and walked with a limp. Plaintiff alleged that while she was working at the concession stand, Ginder asked her to see if other employees of defendant who were working at the basketball game, such as coaches, wanted soft drinks.
Plaintiff alleged that a heavy, wet snow had fallen and that the stairs and tile flooring of Red Hill High School were "soppy wet." Plaintiff alleged that in order to complete the task given by Ginder she had to "walk up a set of stairs, over a landing, and then down another set of stairs to the auditorium." On the return trip, plaintiff slipped and fell down the stairs, causing personal injury. Plaintiff made the same allegations in counts II and IV, alleging that the conduct was negligent in count II and willful and wanton in count IV.
Defendant filed a combined motion to dismiss asking for a dismissal under section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 1998)) or, in the alternative, under section 2-615 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 1998)). Defendant made several arguments in the motion, including claiming that it was immune from negligence claims under several sections of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Act) (745 ILCS 10/1-101 et seq. (West 1998)). Plaintiff filed a reply arguing that plaintiff's claim should be excepted from the Act by the "special duty doctrine" and that she pled willful and wanton conduct. Both parties filed subsequent pleadings on the motion.
After hearing arguments, the court entered an order denying the motion in regard to counts II and IV. In its order, the court pointed out that plaintiff had alleged that she was hired by defendant to work at a concession stand, that she was physically handicapped, and that she was ordered to use wet stairs. The court found that plaintiff had stated a cause of action in light of the Act.
Defendant filed a motion to reconsider. Due to the retirement of the judge who issued the original order, the motion to reconsider was heard by a different judge. The court granted the motion to reconsider and, in a written opinion, dismissed counts II and IV of plaintiff's complaint.
With regard to count II, the court ruled that the special-duty doctrine did not apply, and the court held that defendant was afforded immunity from claims of negligence pursuant to section 3-106 of the Act (745 ILCS 10/3-106 (West 1998)). With respect to count IV, the court ruled that plaintiff did not sufficiently allege facts which would support a finding of willful and wanton conduct, and the court dismissed count IV pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code.
Although plaintiff's appeal focuses on the issue of whether the Act applies to actions by employees, the resolution of this matter involves several other issues. The viability of plaintiff's complaint depends on whether section 3-106 of the Act applies, whether plaintiff pled willful and wanton conduct, and whether the natural accumulation rule applies.
Defendant contends that it is immune from negligence pursuant to section 3-106 of the Act. Section 3-106 reads:
"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 ...