City Has Duty of Reasonable Care to Light Sidewalks

In Warning v. Joliet Third District Court of Appeals held that the city of Joliet has a duty of reasonable care to provide lighting for crosswalks. However, in this case there was no evidence to support Plaintiff’s claim that she was killed as a result of the defendant’s negligence.

Decedent was struck by a vehicle driven by Ibarra right outside of Provena Hospital. The Plaintiff claimed that the City had an obligation to maintain the streetlamps, warn of streetlamps that were not operating properly, make a reasonable inspection, and/or follow procedures for the inspection of streetlamps.

Plaintiff propounded the following evidence:

A full-time security officer at the hospital noticed several inoperable streetlamps on the street in front of the hospital. Typically, during that time, he noted about one per week. Whenever he found a streetlamp was out he would mark it with yellow caution tape. He did not know how long the light had been out before the accident. He was also unaware whether anybody told the city about the streetlights on Madison. The person who ran into the decedent testified. She left her parking lot near the hospital that evening. It was dark. She testified that she believed the lighting affected her ability to see the Decedent. An officer from the city testified there are no policies of the city as to reporting of streetlight outages. One worker at Provena testified he sent a letter to the city regarding complaints that the hospital safety committee had regarding the crosswalk. However, there was no reference to any problems with lighting. The city kept a log of outages. There were no complaints of streetlight outages or malfunctions near the time of the accident. The traffic engineer for the city testified that the streetlight was probably installed in the 1960’s when the hospital was built. It was maintained on a wooden pole that COM ED owned.

Following the plaintiff’s case in chief the city moved for a directed finding, which the court allowed.

The appellate court indicated that when ruling on a motion for directed verdict, a trial court must employ a two-step analysis. First, the court must determine whether plaintiff has established a prima facie case. If a plaintiff presents a prima facie case the court must consider all of the evidence.

If the trial court finds the plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case, the appellate court applies a de novo standard of review. However, if the trial court considers the evidence, the appellate court reviews the case under a “manifest weight” standard.

The appellate court found that a public entity has a duty to exercise ordinary care in maintaining its property in a reasonably safe condition. A municipality is not liable for injuries unless a plaintiff proves the municipality has actual or constructive notice of the condition. However, a municipality’s duty to maintain public property does not apply to streets or other property it does not own. Moreover, a city has no common law duty to light its streets. Merely because a streetlight is out does not render a street unsafe. However, if a city does try to provide streetlights it is liable if it doesn’t do so safely.

Because the COM ED owns the streetlights, the city cannot be sued for the failure to maintain the property. Additionally, there was no evidence that anyone reported the out streetlamp to the city.

Plaintiff tried to argue constructive notice. However, there was no evidence in this case that suggested how long the light had been out.

Given the evidence, the appellate court had no reason to come to any conclusion other than what it did. There was no evidence establishing when the streetlight burned out.

Ackerman Law Office handles injury claims on a contingent fee. We are familiar with the law regarding personal injury claims. Had the plaintiff in this case been able to present evidence that the city owned the streetlamp and that the city had knowledge of the danger it would have been liable.