Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Nguyen v. Lam

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

November 3, 2017

LINH PHUNG HOANG NGUYEN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
NHUTAM LAM and HUNG LAM, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 14 L 9403 Honorable Eileen M. Brewer, Judge, presiding.

          JUSTICE LAMPKIN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Reyes and Justice Hall concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Plaintiff Linh Phung Hoang Nguyen filed this personal injury action seeking damages for injuries she sustained when she stepped on a catch basin in a backyard and the lid gave way. The Cook County circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants Nhutam and Hung Lam, who owned the property on which the catch basin was located.

         ¶ 2 On appeal, plaintiff contends that granting summary judgment was improper because she presented enough evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact regarding defendants' constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition where the testimony and photographs of the rusty catch basin lid and deteriorated surrounding concrete showed those conditions had existed for a sufficient length of time. Plaintiff also argues that she was not required to present expert testimony about the duration of the dangerous condition.

         ¶ 3 For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the circuit court.

         ¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 According to the parties' affidavits and deposition testimony, in 1989, defendants purchased a two-story residential building at 1414 W. Winnemac Avenue in Chicago (the property) and lived there until 2010. Defendants maintained the backyard of the property and allowed their tenants to use the backyard, which contained a catch basin with a metal lid. Defendant Mr. Lam noticed the catch basin in 1989 when he and his wife purchased the property. The previous owner told Mr. Lam to look into the catch basin to make sure it did not get clogged with sewage, but Mr. Lam never followed this instruction or advice because sewage never came up the drain inside the home.

         ¶ 6 In 1992, defendants hired professional cleaners to clean the well of the catch basin, and no one told Mr. Lam that the catch basin needed additional work. Defendants never performed any maintenance or repairs to the catch basin or lid since they purchased the property in 1989, and the catch basin has not been cleaned, inspected, or modified since 1992. Mr. Lam regularly inspected, cleaned, and swept the backyard, repaired anything that was broken, cut the grass, and shoveled the snow. He walked over the catch basin, had seen others walk across it, and never noticed any problem with the catch basin. Before plaintiff's injury, no one told him that the lid was loose, out of place, or did not fit properly. Just a few weeks before plaintiff's injury, Mr. Lam cleaned the backyard area and did not inspect the catch basin or notice any problem with it.

         ¶ 7 Plaintiff was injured in August 2014, at about 6 p.m., while she was walking on the sidewalk in defendants' backyard. Specifically, plaintiff and her boyfriend had parked his car in the garage located at the rear of the property and were carrying groceries as they walked through the backyard toward his parents' apartment. When plaintiff's left foot stepped onto the lid of the catch basin, it flipped to a vertical position and caused her to fall into the well and straddle the edge of the vertical metal lid. She sustained an injury to her groin area.

         ¶ 8 With the help of her boyfriend, plaintiff went inside the apartment of his parents, and his mother telephoned Mr. Lam. The mother was outside when Mr. Lam arrived at the scene and saw that the lid was in the vertical position. He pushed it down into place with his foot and stood on the lid with both feet. The mother said that the lid was broken, but Mr. Lam said that it was not. Mr. Lam did not see any blood at the scene and did not believe that plaintiff ever fell into the catch basin well.

         ¶ 9 Plaintiff went to the hospital and was diagnosed with a vulvar hematoma, which required surgery. Photographs of the catch basin were taken immediately after the occurrence. A photograph of the lid in place on the catch basin shows that the top of the lid is rusted and the circumference of the lid is worn and deteriorated. Moreover, the circle concrete surface surrounding the catch basin is deteriorated and has two large cracks and a thinner crack. Those cracks span the distance between the outside rim of the concrete circle and its inside rim, which surrounds the lid of the catch basin. Photographs of the lid tipped in a vertical position in the catch basin show substantial corrosion of the concrete lip upon which the metal lid must rest to remain stable and in place. In these photographs, the rusted, uneven edge of the lid is more obvious. A photograph of the lid removed from the catch basin shows substantial corrosion and deterioration of the lid, the concrete surrounding the catch basin, and the concrete lip of the catch basin.

         ¶ 10 After plaintiff was injured, Mr. Lam initially placed a board and a couple of chairs over the catch basin. About two months later, workers lifted the lid, spread cement around the lip of the catch basin, and replaced the lid.

         ¶ 11 In her negligence complaint, plaintiff alleged that defendants failed to exercise reasonable care in the ownership, maintenance, and inspection of their property. Specifically, plaintiff argued that defendants failed to maintain the catch basin and lid in a reasonably safe and proper condition, failed to conduct reasonable inspections of the basin and lid, and failed to repair or replace ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.