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Ryan v. Glen Ellyn Raintree Condominium Association

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

April 11, 2014

MARY RYAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
GLEN ELLYN RAINTREE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, GLEN ELLYN RAINTREE CONDOMINIUM-ASHFIELD HOUSE OWNERS ASSOCIATION, and CDH PROPERTIES, INC., Defendants-Appellees

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 10-L-83. Honorable Ronald D. Sutter, Judge, Presiding.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

An action for the injuries plaintiff suffered when she slipped on an ice patch on a sidewalk in the condominium complex where she lived was barred by section 2 of the Snow and Ice Removal Act, which negates liability for injuries arising from a residential property owner's acts or omissions in attempting to remove snow or ice from sidewalks abutting the property " unless the alleged misconduct was willful or wanton," since plaintiff initially attributed her fall to the failed snow and ice removal efforts of defendants, thereby raising a prima facie case for the application of the Act, and her attempt to assert a new claim in her reply brief by arguing that the ice patch on which she fell was caused by a design defect in an awning that allowed water to drip onto the sidewalk and freeze was improper.

Bradley N. Pollock and Adam C. Kruse, both of Walsh, Knippen, Pollock & Cetina, Chtrd., of Wheaton, for appellant.

James D. Komsthoeft, of Abramson, Murtaugh & Coghlan, of Chicago, for appellees.

JUSTICE BIRKETT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hutchinson and Spence concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

BIRKETT, JUSTICE.

Page 1181

[¶1] Plaintiff, Mary Ryan, appeals the trial court's summary judgment in favor of defendants, Glen Ellyn Raintree Condominium Association, Glen Ellyn Raintree Condominium-Ashfield House Owners Association, and CDH Properties, Inc., on plaintiff's negligence complaint against them. For the following reasons, we hold that, as a matter of law, the Snow and Ice Removal Act (Act) (745 ILCS 75/1 et seq. (West 2012)) bars plaintiff's negligence suit. Thus, we affirm.

[¶2] I. BACKGROUND

[¶3] Defendants Glen Ellyn Raintree Condominium Association and Glen Ellyn Raintree Condominium-Ashfield House Owners Association (collectively, Raintree) own and control the common areas of a condominium complex in Glen Ellyn. In February 2008, plaintiff was injured when she slipped and fell within one of the common areas of the complex. Her fall occurred

Page 1182

just outside the entrance of a building within the complex. At the time of the accident, Raintree had ongoing contracts with defendant CDH Properties, Inc. (CDH), to maintain the premises, and with Building Maintenance Systems, Inc. (BMS), to remove snow and ice. Plaintiff brought suit against Raintree, CDH, and BMS. BMS was later dismissed from the lawsuit, and so we address plaintiff's complaint only as it relates to Raintree and CDH. Plaintiff alleged in her complaint that she slipped on a patch of ice that had formed because of water dripping from an overhead awning and then freezing on the walkway below. Defendants were negligent, plaintiff claimed, because they (1) failed to correct a design flaw in the awning that directed melted snow and rainwater onto the walkway below; and (2) voluntarily undertook to remove snow and ice from the premises but failed to clear the particular patch of ice on which she slipped.

[¶4] Defendants moved for summary judgment on two principal grounds. First, defendants invoked the common-law rule that landowners have no duty to remove natural accumulations of snow or ice (see, e.g., Greene v. Wood River Trust, 2013 IL App (4th) 130036, ¶ 14, 998 N.E.2d 925, 376 Ill.Dec. 215), and claimed that the ice on which plaintiff slipped was entirely a natural accumulation. Second, and alternatively, defendants maintained that plaintiff's suit was barred by section 2 of the Act ( 745 ILCS 75/2 (West 2012)), which eliminates liability for injuries resulting from a residential property owner's acts or omissions in attempting to remove snow or ice from sidewalks abutting the property, " unless the alleged misconduct was willful or wanton." In this connection, defendants contended, first, that plaintiff's claim fell within the scope of section 2 because she was alleging that the ice patch on which she slipped resulted from defendants' failed snow removal efforts. Defendants pointed to deposition testimony that such removal efforts were ongoing in February 2008. Specifically, defendant had retained BMS to remove snow and ice, and CDH not only inspected the premises weekly for snow and ice hazards but also inspected the premises after each visit by BMS, to ensure that it had performed its work properly. Defendants further contended that there was no evidence of willful or wanton omissions in their removal efforts.

[¶5] In response, plaintiff disagreed with defendants' construal of her claim. She maintained that her complaint alleged liability based on an architectural feature of the premises and not on any omission by defendants in their snow and ice removal efforts. According to plaintiff, the Act did not eliminate liability for injuries resulting from design defects. To support her claim of a design defect, plaintiff attached the deposition of Steven Weiss, an architect, who opined that the ice patch on which plaintiff slipped resulted not from ordinary precipitation but from an awning that directed water onto the walkway.

[¶6] The trial court agreed with defendants that, no matter how the ice patch was formed, defendants' immediate or proximate negligence, as alleged by plaintiff, was in failing to remove the patch despite their general snow and ice removal efforts. Hence, plaintiff was indeed alleging " acts or omissions" by defendants in their snow and ice removal efforts, and so her claim fell squarely within section 2 of the Act. Accordingly, the trial court entered summary judgment for defendants on all counts of plaintiff's complaint.

[¶7] Plaintiff filed this timely appeal.

[¶8] II. ANALYSIS

[¶9] In assessing plaintiff's challenge to the summary judgment, we ...


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