Category Archives: Premises Liability

Tis the Season for Slip and Falls

With the holiday season upon us, and the weather changing, people are more likely to slip and fall on ice and snow and injure themselves.  Many people assume that if you slip and fall on someone's property that the homeowner is automatically liable.  That is not the case; rather, a property owner is only liable for injuries on snow and ice if there is an unnatural accumulation, or if the homeowner was negligent in removing the snow.  Thus, for example, a business owner can be held liable if there is runoff from a downspout which pools somewhere on the land.  Alternatively, the property owner can be held accountable if it removed the snow haphazardly.  First, and foremost, please take care this holiday season.  If, however, you fall and injure yourself on another's property, be sure to take pictures of the condition immediately which caused your injury.

Skokie Considers Stricter Animal Law

The Village of Skokie is considering enacting a stricter municipal law regarding vicious animals after a loose pit bull attacked three other dogs, killing them.  The dogs were attacked in Morton Grove and Skokie.  A representative from the Village of Skokie said that if the proposal passes, fines against offending homeowners would jump from $200 to $500.  The representative stated that the ordinance is not targeted against pit bulls.  Regardless of the outcome of the new municipal ordinance, under Illinois state law, a dog owner can be held strictly liable if their animal attacks a person.  This is a much easier standard for an injured party compared to ordinary negligence law.

Dog Bites Proving Costly for Insurance Companies

Insurance companies costs associated with dog bites has hit a record high.  Payouts on claims for dog bite injuries jumped 12% over last year.  In 2011, dog bite injuries cost the insurance companies $478.9 million.  In 2010, the cost was $412.6 million.  State Farm Insurance Companies alone paid out $109 million on about 3,800 dog bite claims nationwide last year.  California had the most claims of any state.  Illinois had the second most amount of claims and claims paid out.  Children ages 5 to 9 and senior citizens pose the highest risk groups. An analysis of homeowners' insurance data showed that the average payout of a claim either by way of settlement or trial resulted in a payout of $29,396 in 2011, compared to $26,166 for the prior year.  Dog bite attacks account for one third of all liability payouts under homeowners' policies.  Under Illinois law, homeowners can be held strictly liable if their dog bites someone, as long as the victim did not provoke the animal.  This is a much stronger legal theory for plaintiffs compared to ordinary negligence claims.  Anecdotally, our experience has been that pit bulls are the one breed more than others that inflict this kind of damage.

Cook County Jury Returns $10 Million Verdict for Murdered Woman’s Family

In late March, a jury in the Circuit Court of Cook County returned a $10 million verdict in favor of the family of Melissa Dorner.  Roberto Ramirez murdered Dorner on January 23, 2005 in her apartment on North Winthrop in Chicago.  Ramirez lived there also.  Ramirez was charged with Dorner's murder, but he fled to Mexico.  He was later extradited to the United States.  In 2007, Dorner's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the apartment building's management company and its owner, claiming that they were negligent in failing to screen tenants.  The jury found Ramirez 90% at fault and the management company 10% at fault.  Ramirez is likely judgment proof, meaning that Dorner's family will only be able to recover $1 million.  The evidence at trial showed that another female tenant complained about Ramirez two months before the murder - Ramirez chased her up the stairs.  The management company intends to file post-trial motions with the court seeking to set aside the verdict.  Those motions, however, are rarely granted.  Negligence cases involving third party criminal attacks are usually difficult to win.

Family Sues in Death of Firefighter

The children of a Chicago firefighter filed a wrongful death lawsuit accusing the owners of an abandoned building for negligence when the roof collapsed during a firefight.  The incident happened on December 22, 2010.  Edward Stringer responded to the fire at the site of the former Sing Way Cleaners.  Notably, the owner of the building had received numerous building code citations since 1987.