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Appellate Court Affirms Ruling by District Judge in Illinois Premises Liability Case

Customers of a business who are injured by a hazardous condition while on the premises of a business may have a cause of action against the business or property owner if certain conditions are met. Business owners have a duty to prevent hazardous conditions that may injure their customers, and may be held accountable for negligence in the event someone is injured while on the property. The duty is not absolute, however, as demonstrated by a recent federal appellate court decision that prevented an Illinois premises liability lawsuit from going to trial, and ultimately precluded the plaintiff from obtaining relief.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case is a man who was injured when he tripped on a display sign while shopping at the defendant hardware store. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured when he was moving large pieces of lumber from a pile in a lumberyard, and tripped on a display sign that was not in its proper place. The plaintiff filed an Illinois personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, claiming that the defendant was negligent by allowing the display to be placed in a dangerous position and creating a hazard that caused his injuries.

Before the case went to trial, the defendant filed a motion with the district court arguing that the hazardous condition presented by the sign was open and obvious, and that the plaintiff either saw it before he tripped or should have seen it, and that his case should not proceed to trial as a result. The district court ruled that under Illinois law, injuries caused by an open and obvious hazard do not qualify for a claim of damages, and ruled in favor of the defendant, resulting in the plaintiff’s appeal.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit took up the case, and after looking deeper into the facts of the case and relevant law, agreed with the district court’s ruling. Specifically, the appellate court noted that the plaintiff himself admitted to reading the display sign prior to selecting the lumber, and thus he must have seen its position before tripping over it and suffering the injuries. The court further ruled that the defendant had sufficient precautions in place to prevent tripping hazards and should not be required to constantly monitor the lumberyard to remove tripping hazards as soon as they occur. Relying on these two considerations, the appellate court found that the defendant owed the plaintiff no duty to prevent the sign from becoming a hazard to the plaintiff, and therefore affirmed the district court judgment.

Have You Been Injured?

If you or someone you know has been injured in an Illinois slip and fall or by any other hazard while frequenting a business or private dwelling, you may be entitled to compensation from the property owner. Illinois property owners owe a duty of care to prevent hazards on their property from endangering the public. The Chicago personal injury and premises liability attorneys at, Abels & Annes, P.C. are qualified, and have the experience necessary to handle your case with the diligence and care that you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation to determine if you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. If you have been injured, call 312-924-7575 or contact us online to schedule a no-obligation consultation today.

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