Governmental Immunity

Government entities are generally allowed immunity on many torts. This makes filing suit against a county or municipal government difficult. An example of that is Monson vs. City of Danville.

 

In Monson the plaintiff fell on property owned by the City of Danville. She had left a store in the downtown district and was walking to her car when she walked into an inch of water that had formed on the side-walk by land. As she walked to the water she felt her left shoe strike something which caused her to fall. She suffered injuries for which she sued the city. Her injury occurred on December 7, 2012.

 

The city’s superintendent of downtown services was responsible for maintaining the sidewalks. She walked the downtown district and painted places she believed required repair. After that the city’s engineer toured the area to discuss what needs to be done to the sidewalks. This occurred a year before the injury in 2011.

 

When the city’s superintendent of downtown services heard of the plaintiff’s fall, she took pictures of the location of the fall. She saw a low spot of moisture and repositioned the garbage receptacle to prevent other pedestrians from walking there. She felt there was an uneven seam between the adjoining slabs of concrete, which could be dangerous.

 

The city superintendent of downtown services testified that she used numerous factors to determine whether to repair or replace concrete slabs. The city repairs things on a case-by-case basis.

 

The city’s public works director testified that the city did a project would help enhance the downtown area. This occurred in 2011, a year before the injury. The public works director and the superintendent of downtown services inspected pretty much every slab of concrete in the downtown area. The public works director did not recall having seen the specific site where plaintiff fell.

 

The defendant, City of Danville, filed a motion for summary judgment. The court granted the motion. The trial court found that the acts were not ministerial because they were not dictated by a specific ordinance or statute. Instead, they were discretionary.

 

The appellate court agreed with the trial court. It discusses the fact that the local governmental and governmental employees for community act gives immunity to municipalities for discretionary acts.  745 ILCS 10/2-109.

 

This case illustrates the difficulty plaintiff will have filing suit based on sidewalk variations. If a governmental entity owns the property is even more difficult. Cities are immune from liability for discretionary acts. Therefore, if the city looks at the property, as it did here, and makes a discretionary decision about what to repair or replace, it cannot be liable.

 

If the city had an ordinance that said it is not permitted to have slabs of concrete that have more than an inch height differential between slabs and the difference between the slabs exceed 1 inch, the act becomes ministerial, not discretionary. Therefore, the immunity act would not apply.

 

However, most slip and fall cases are difficult because the jury is likely to conclude that the plaintiff should have been paying more attention to where you were she was going.

 

Ackerman Law Office will take certain slip and fall cases. However, we prefer the ones with ordinance violations or statutory violations because I think those cases have a better chance of winning. We take these cases on the contingent fee, which means we do not take a fee unless we win.