Friday, September 16, 2016

ALA's Cases Pending Previews Illinois Supreme Court's September Term

Cases Pending, edited by Hon. Clare J. Quish (pictured left) and Gretchen Sperry, has been updated to discuss the Illinois Supreme Court’s September Term that began Monday, September 12, 2016, with oral arguments scheduled for September 13, 14, and 15 and September 20, 21 and 22, 2016. A total of 21 cases will be heard – 11 civil and 10 criminal. Here are the civil cases with the dates of oral argument:

In re M.I., a Minor—No. 120232—September 14
Schweihs v. Chase Home Finance, LLC—No. 120041—September 15
Wardwell v. Union Pacific Railroad Co. —No. 120438—September 15
The Hertz Corp. v. City of Chicago—No. 119945, 119960—September 20
Bueker v. Madison County—No. 120024—September 20
Beggs v. Board of Education of Murphysboro Community Unit School District No. 186—No. 120236—September 21
Blanchard v. Berrios—No. 120315—September 21
Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc. —No. 120394—September 21
Zahn v. North American Power & Gas, LLC—No. 120526—September 21
Village of Bartonville v. Lopez—No. 120643—September 22
Grimm v. Calica—No. 120105—September 22
Below are abbreviated summaries for two of these cases. Summaries for these cases and others listed above can be found in our Cases Pending publication, accessible to ALA members on our website.


No. 120438
Christopher Wardwell v. Union Pacific Railroad Company

This petition raises the question of whether a defendant railroad may, under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”), offer evidence at trial that a third party was the sole cause of a plaintiff’s injury. Under FELA, a railroad employer is deemed fully liable for all of a plaintiff’s injuries if any of those injuries were sustained as a result of a defendant’s negligence, regardless of the comparative fault of other parties.
In the proceedings below, Plaintiff Christopher Wardwell, an employee of Defendant Union Pacific Railroad (“UPRR”), sustained injuries after being struck by a drunk driver while riding as a passenger in a vehicle operated by a UPRR-contracted driver. Plaintiff contended that because the driver of the vehicle – indisputably an agent of UPRR – acted negligently by failing to check the vehicle’s blind spots prior to the accident, UPRR should be held fully liable for his injuries, notwithstanding the actions of the drunk driver.
UPRR took the position at trial that the drunk driver’s actions were the sole cause of Plaintiff’s injuries such that no liability could be imposed on it under FELA. The jury agreed and returned a verdict in favor of UPRR. Plaintiff’s post-trial motion was denied and he appealed.
Reversing, two justices of the Fifth District Appellate Court concluded that because the jury was presented with some evidence that UPRR acted negligently, the jury verdict was in error. Specifically, the appellate court held that in a FELA action involving a railroad, evidence of a third party’s negligence is inadmissible where there is circumstantial evidence establishing that the railroad contributed to the injury.
Appellate Court Decision: 2016 IL App (5th) 140461. Goldenhersh, J., with Stewart, J., concurring and Moore, J., dissenting.


No. 120394
Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc.

This issue in this case concerns the scope of the immunity provided under the Snow and Ice Removal Act, 745 ILCS 75/1, et seq. (“the Act”). The Act immunizes property owners and maintenance companies from negligence claims arising out of personal injuries caused by the snowy or icy condition of a sidewalk.

On February 18, 2011, Plaintiff Pamela Murphy-Hylton (“Murphy-Hylton”) slipped and fell while walking on the sidewalk outside of her condominium in Carol Stream. Murphy-Hylton sued Lieberman Management Services, Inc. (“Lieberman”), the management company responsible for maintaining the common areas of the property, and Klein Creek Condominium (“Klein”), alleging that negligent landscaping design or maintenance created an unnatural accumulation of ice and snow which caused her injury. Murphy-Hylton did not allege that Lieberman or Klein negligently attempted to remove natural accumulations of snow and ice on the property. Lieberman and Klein moved for summary judgment arguing that, under the Act, they were entitled to immunity. The circuit court agreed and granted summary judgment for Lieberman and Klein.

The Illinois Appellate Court reversed. The court held that the Act protects property owners from allegations of negligence arising out of acts or omissions in actual snow removal efforts. However, the Act does not protect property owners from allegations of negligence arising out of negligent maintenance, defective design, or defective construction. In this case, Murphy-Hylton alleged that she was injured as a result of an unnatural accumulation of snow and ice and that Lieberman and Klein had notice of property defects which created the unnatural accumulation. Murphy-Hylton did not allege negligence in actual snow removal efforts. Therefore, the court concluded, the Act did not apply and Lieberman and Klein were not entitled to immunity.

Appellate Court Decision: 2015 IL App (1st) 142804. Connors, J. with Liu, P.J., and Cunningham, J., concurring.
DISCLAIMER: The Appellate Lawyers Association does not provide legal services or legal advice. Discussions of legal principles and authority, including, but not limited to, constitutional provisions, statutes, legislative enactments, court rules, case law, and common-law doctrines are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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