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Hall v. Henn

December 18, 2003

ELLEN HALL, APPELLEE,
v.
TIM HENN ET AL., APPELLANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Thomas

UNPUBLISHED

Docket No. 95431-Agenda 28-September 2003.

In this case, we are asked to construe the scope of the Recreational Use of Land And Water Areas Act (745 ILCS 65/1 et seq. (West 2002)). Specifically, we are asked to decide whether the Act's limitation of liability applies only to landowners who open their property for recreational use by the general public, or whether it also applies to landowners who open their property for recreational use by invited guests only.

BACKGROUND

During the winter of 2000-01, defendants, Tim and Sue Henn, built and maintained a sled run in their backyard. The run included steps, a platform, and a luge-like course, all of which were constructed out of snow, sprayed with water, and hardened into ice. Although the run was not open to the general public, defendants made it available to certain friends and neighbors. Those using the run first had to ask for and receive defendants' permission, and defendants allowed the run to be used only when they were present to supervise.

The Friel family lived across the street from defendants. On January 6, 2001, plaintiff, Ellen Hall, was visiting the Friels with her children. During the visit, Jody Friel called defendants and asked if her family and plaintiff's family could use the sled run. Defendants agreed. After taking several successful turns on the run, plaintiff slipped and fell down the icy stairs. The fall knocked plaintiff unconscious, and she suffered both a fractured right arm and a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.

Plaintiff filed a negligence action against defendants. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the Act immunizes them from negligence liability arising out of the recreational use of their property. The trial court agreed with defendants and granted the motion. The appellate court reversed, explaining that defendants were not entitled to the Act's protection because they had not opened their land for recreational use by the public. No. 2-02-0435 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We granted defendants' petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a).

ANALYSIS

Summary judgment is proper where, when viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the pleadings, depositions, admissions, and affidavits on file reveal that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West 2002); Ragan v. Columbia Mutual Insurance Co., 183 Ill. 2d 342, 349 (1998). The standard of review for the entry of summary judgment is de novo. Ragan, 183 Ill. 2d at 349.

The Recreational Use of Land And Water Areas Act (the Act) exists "to encourage owners of land to make land and water areas available to the public for recreational or conservation purposes by limiting their liability toward persons entering thereon for such purposes." 745 ILCS 65/1 (West 2002). To that end, the Act provides that owners of land owe "no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry or use by any person for recreational or conservation purposes, or to give any warning of a natural or artificial dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity on such premises to persons entering for such purposes." 745 ILCS 65/3 (West 2002). In addition, the Act provides that:

"an owner of land who either directly or indirectly invites or permits without charge any person to use such property for recreational or conservation purposes does not thereby:

(a) Extend any assurance that the premises are safe for any purpose.

(b) Confer upon such person the legal status of an invitee or licensee to whom a duty of care is owed.

(c) Assume responsibility for or incur liability for any injury to person or property caused by an act or omission of such person or any ...


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