Homeowner is not Responsible for Injury on Adjacent Sidewalk

When a person suffers injuries as a result of a slip and fall on negligently maintained property, it is important to establish who is responsible to maintain the property that caused the slip and fall.

In the recent decision Gilmore v. Powers, the Illinois Appellate Court determined that homeowners are not responsible for injuries on public property abutting their house, even if the homeowners maintained the property by cutting grass, watering, spreading salt on the property. The plaintiff in this case was a mover that was helping the property owners move their belongings from California to their home in Evanston, Illinois. As the moving company was finishing its work, one of the movers fell on a stone walkway which straddled the city-owned parkway in front of defendants’ house.

The mover sued the homeowners for negligence claiming that the homeowners should have maintained “their property” in a condition that was safe for people such as herself. The mover specifically asserted that the homeowners violated this duty by failing to inspect “their property” for hazardous conditions, permitting the walkway to remain in a dangerous condition, failing to fix the walkway after becoming aware of its dangerous condition, and failing to properly maintain the walkway on the property.

The homeowners argued that they owned no duty to maintain the walkway because it was not located on their property, but on the parkway, the area between the curb of the street and the sidewalk, which is owned by the City of Evanston. The trial court agreed with the homeowners. The mover appealed.

On appeal, the mover conceded that the walkway was located on a parkway owned by the city, but argued that the homeowners, as adjacent property owners, owed such a duty of care because she claimed they appropriated the parkway for their own use by mowing the grass growing upon it, raking leaves from it, and crossing it daily in order to get from the sidewalk to the street.

The appellate court disagreed with the mover and determined that the homeowners had no duty of care regarding the condition of the walkway. The appellate court stated that a homeowner generally owes no duty to ensure the safe condition of a public sidewalk or parkway abutting that property. Although the court agreed that sometimes there may be duty if the homeowner took over public property to an extent that the homeowner prevented the public from using the property in an ordinary manner such as blocking the land, parking on it, or using it to display goods, in this case, the homeowners did nothing to assume control of the public sidewalk. In this case, the landowner merely maintained the property by mowing grass or shoveling and salting it in the winter. These actions did not arise to taking control. Therefore, the court determined that the homeowners were not responsible for the mover’s injury.

When a person is injured as a result of a slip and fall on a negligently maintained property who owns and controls the property can determine who has a duty to the victim. The party that has the duty will be responsible for the harm. If you have been harmed in a slip and fall accident, contact the Chicago attorneys Zneimer & Zneimer. We can help you recover for your harm from the party responsible for causing the harm.