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What does Illinois law say about snow removal?

With winter only about half over for this year, you likely already are more than ready for spring. You hate the thought of any more snow, ice, below-zero wind chills, shoveling, and all the other things that go along with an Illinois winter. Nevertheless, you persevere in removing the snow from your sidewalks and steps so no one will fall on them and sue you for the injuries they receive. You fervently wish everyone else did the same.

It may surprise you to learn that Illinois law does not require individuals and businesses to remove the snow and ice on their property. Furthermore, Illinois law does not automatically allow you to recover damages in a slip-and-fall lawsuit if you fell because of snow and ice. Why? Because, as Mondaq.com points out, rather than following the “reasonable care” rule, Illinois still follows the “natural accumulation” rule.

Under this rule, if you file a premises liability lawsuit against the person or business on whose property you fell on icy or snowy ground and hurt yourself, you face the almost impossible burden of proving that you fell due to “unnatural” causes rather than “natural” ones. Illinois’s Pattern Jury Instruction 125.04 actually speaks to this. It lists such things as the following as examples of “unnatural” causes:

  • ”Negligence of the property owner in leaving spilled liquid in a high traffic area”
  • ”Negligent maintenance of the underlying sidewalk/parking lot by the property owner”
  • ”Impaired or altered drainage of the premises”

Given that in 2010 Massachusetts overruled its case establishing the natural accumulation rule, will Illinois eventually likewise opt for the reasonable care standard instead? We can only wait and see.

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