Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division
KRISTA M. COOK, Plaintiff-Appellant,
THE VILLAGE OF OAK PARK, Defendant-Appellee.
from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 2016 L 064007 The
Honorable Cheyrl D. Ingram, Judge Presiding.
Attorneys for Appellant: Adam J. Zayed and Julian D. Hoshell,
of Joliet, for appellant.
Attorneys for Appellee: Paul L. Stephanides and Rasheda
Jackson, of Oak Park, for appellee.
JUSTICE LAVIN delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Fitzgerald Smith and Justice
Pucinski concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiff, Krista M. Cook, was injured when she tripped and
fell on an uneven seam in a sidewalk owned by defendant, the
Village of Oak Park (Village). Due to her injuries, plaintiff
filed a premises liability action against the Village,
alleging, in the main, that it negligently maintained the
sidewalk by failing to repair the defect. The Village moved
for summary judgment, asserting that plaintiffs claim was not
actionable because the defect was de minimis and,
alternatively, that the Village was immune from liability
pursuant to section 3-102 of the Local Governmental and
Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Act) (745 ILCS
10/3- 102(a), (b) (West 2016)). The circuit court ultimately
granted the motion and entered summary judgment in favor of
the Village. For the reasons that follow, we reverse.
3 The following facts were gleaned from the parties'
pleadings, depositions, affidavits and other supporting
documents that were all presented to the court below.
4 In the evening on July 22, 2015, plaintiff was walking home
after work when her foot suddenly hit a piece of concrete,
causing her to trip and fall onto the sidewalk, which was
located on Lombard Avenue. It was a dry, dark midsummer
night. There were no streetlights within 50 feet of the
sidewalk even though it was often frequented by pedestrians
due to its close proximity to a bustling outdoor park.
Plaintiff fell forward onto her right shoulder and hit her
head, temporarily losing consciousness. When she regained
consciousness, plaintiff was unable to walk and began to
vomit uncontrollably. Eventually, a man helped her to a
nearby porch where she waited until a taxicab arrived.
Plaintiff went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with a
concussion, separated shoulder and a broken collarbone.
5 The next morning, plaintiff drove to the location of the
incident with her mother, Ella Fahlstrom, where they met
Officer Michael Greet, an evidence technician for the
Village. After plaintiff filed a police report, she directed
Fahlstrom and Greet to the area where she fell. They
proceeded to take photographs and measurements of the
deviation in the sidewalk while plaintiff observed them from
her vehicle due to her injuries. According to plaintiff, she
told Fahlstrom where to take the photograph since she
"knew where to go." Meanwhile, the Village repaired
6 Over the next year, plaintiff underwent three clavicle
surgeries, which included attaching a permanent screw to her
collarbone, among other things. And even though she underwent
extensive physical therapy, plaintiff still has not regained
full use of her right arm. Consequently, she was unable to
perform her duties at work, resulting in her termination.
7 After her fall, plaintiff filed the present complaint,
alleging that the Village's negligence in failing to
repair the sidewalk defect was the direct and proximate cause
of her injuries.
8 At the time of the incident, the Village had in place a
sidewalk replacement program to identify and repair defects
larger than one inch. William McKenna, the Village's
engineer, testified that the sidewalk where plaintiff fell
had previously been repaired in 2012 due to "an
elevation displacement between sidewalk squares." But,
only a year later, there was another displacement in the same
location according to Ted Brunson, who lived directly behind
the sidewalk. Brunson testified that "the two slabs were
quite uneven." He further testified that Village
personnel were in front of his house "more than ten
times," yet they did not repair the sidewalk until
plaintiff fell two years later.
9 In her deposition, plaintiff testified that the deviation
in the sidewalk was "over two inches." On the other
hand, Greet testified that it was "between an inch and a
quarter and an inch and a half," based on the ruler in
his photograph. However, Greet noted that his measurement did
not account for the gap on the bottom of the ruler, conceding