AUSTEN FARRELL, a Minor, by His Mother, Emily Scheel, Plaintiff-Appellant,
STEPHANIE FARRELL, Defendant-Appellee.
from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, Bureau
County, Illinois, Circuit No. 16-L-3 Honorable Cornelius J.
Hollerich, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice O'Brien and Justice Schmidt
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiff, Austen Farrell, by his mother, Emily Scheel,
filed a complaint against defendant, Stephanie Farrell,
claiming that defendant acted negligently with regard to an
incident on her property in which plaintiff was injured while
riding a dirt bike. Plaintiff appeals the trial court's
grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant. We affirm.
3 On August 21, 2015, plaintiff, who was 12 years old at the
time, operated a dirt bike on property owned by defendant,
his paternal grandmother. The property consisted of
buildings, vacant land, paths, and planted cornfields.
Plaintiff's dirt bike collided with an all-terrain
vehicle (ATV) driven by another minor. Plaintiff was injured
as a result of the collision.
4 Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant alleging that
defendant acted negligently in that she:
"a. Failed in her duty as owner and occupant of [the]
real estate ***, that she failed to exercise ordinary care to
the property which would be reasonably safe for the use of
children, in that the owner failed to notify the children,
that riding ATVs and dirt bikes could collide due to the
operation of those vehicles and cause propelling of the
passenger into the driver if there is a braking and/or a
sudden stop caused by an object in the path.
b. Failed in her duties as owner and occupant, by inviting
children on the property and then failing to see if the
property was safe for the use of children riding ATVs and
c. Failed in her duty to the invited children, as the
[defendant] failed to warn the children of mature corn
blocking the vision of the children while riding ATVs and
dirt bikes, which was a danger.
d. Failed in her duty to the invited children in that the
[defendant] failed to stay outside and/or supervise the
invited children while riding ATVs and dirt bikes."
5 Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that
she "owed no duty to protect [plaintiff] from the risk
of danger associated with the operation of the dirt
bike." The motion alleged that "at the time of the
alleged incident, [plaintiff] was under the supervision of
[Heath Farrell, plaintiff's father]." The motion
argued that Heath, rather than defendant, had a duty to
supervise plaintiff at the time of the incident.
6 An affidavit executed by Heath was attached to the motion
for summary judgment. The affidavit stated that Heath was
plaintiff's father, Scheel was Heath's former wife,
defendant was Heath's mother, and the minor who plaintiff
collided with was the daughter of Heath's fiancée.
Heath was "extremely familiar with the area where the
incident alleged in the Complaint took place." Heath
stated that prior to the date of the incident, he gave
plaintiff permission to ride a dirt bike or ATV on
defendant's property. Heath was aware "prior to and
on the date of the incident" that plaintiff would be
riding the dirt bike or ATV without direct adult supervision
and that other minors would be operating dirt bikes or ATVs
at the same time. Heath stated that "at the time of the
alleged incident I was the 'custodial parent' of my
son, [plaintiff], and he was under my supervision."
"I have reviewed the allegations in the Complaint and
the activities alleged therein to have taken place at the
time of the alleged incident were such that they fall within
the permission I had granted to my son, [plaintiff], and
which I ...