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Prepping for Winter

June 2022

Catherine L. Carlson

While basking in the summer sunshine, it’s the perfect time to relax by the pool and contemplate all the frozen fun of winter. The Illinois Appellate Court in the Third District recently issued an opinion about the treats that Jack Frost leaves behind.

In the matter of Gore v. Pilot Travel Centers, LLC, the Appellate court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the defendant premises owner on the basis that plaintiff failed to provide any evidence that defendant’s ice removal efforts created an unnatural accumulation of ice on the sidewalk where he fell. In this case, Plaintiff Gore fell on the sidewalk at a gas station owned by the Defendant, Pilot Travel Centers. The plaintiff introduced evidence that there had been wintery precipitation a few days prior to the incident. On the date of the incident, he alleged that the gas station failed to remove snow and ice from the sidewalk where the plaintiff fell in the afternoon on December 19, 2016, when the temperatures were a chilly 15°F.

Defendant introduced evidence that it hired a snow removal contractor who removed the precipitation from the 2 previous days. Defendant filed for summary judgment arguing that 1) there was no evidence that plaintiff fell because of an unnatural accumulation, and 2) there was no evidence it had actual or constructive notice of ice on the sidewalk before plaintiff’s fall. Plaintiff responded that defendant undertook a duty to remove snow and ice on its sidewalks and violated corporate policy in its removal efforts. The trial court ruled in favor of the defendant on the basis that 1) there was no evidence that the ice plaintiff slipped on was an unnatural accumulation of ice; 2) defendant did not assume a duty to remove natural accumulations of ice; 3) defendant was not subject to liability for an alleged violation of an internal company policy; and 4) defendant had no actual or constructive notice of the presence of ice on the sidewalk.

While the general rule in Illinois is that there is no duty to remove natural accumulation of ice and snow, a defendant who voluntarily undertakes to remove snow or ice from its property owes a duty of reasonable care may be subject to liability if its snow and ice remove is performed negligently. Jordan v. Kroger Co., 2018 IL App (1st) 180582, ¶20. To prove that defendant was negligent in voluntarily undertaking the snow and ice removal, a plaintiff must show that the removal efforts created an unnatural accumulation, not merely that some ice and snow remains. Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc., 2016 IL 120394, ¶22. Furthermore, defendant premises owners do not create a duty by simply having self-imposed rules or guidelines. Rhodes v. Illinois Central Gulf R.R., 172 Ill.2d 213, 238 (1996).

In this case, the court found that the defendant’s voluntary ice and snow removal effort did not impose a duty on defendant to ensure that its sidewalks were completely clear of all ice. Further, the defendant’s internal snow-removal policy did not impose a duty on defendant to remove all ice from its sidewalks. Rather, under the general rule, defendant only had the duty not to increase the risk of harm to its customers by creating an unnatural accumulation of ice on its property. There was no evidence of unnatural ice accumulation in this case and thus, the trial court properly granted summary judgment.

Cases like Gore reiterate that premises owners are not liable for natural accumulation of ice and snow. It should be noted that Gore applies only to premises owners and not snow removal contractors. Under Mickens v. CPS Chicago Parking, Ltd. liability Co., 2019 IL App (1st) 180156, ¶ 89, one Appellate court held that third-party snow removal contractors can have a duty to remove even natural accumulations of ice and snow depending on the language of their contract. However, premises owners should also consider their policies regarding removal and the geography of their building in order to make sure that their removal policies don’t create an unnatural accumulation.

  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association
  • IRTB
  • DRI - The Voice of the Defense Bar
  • The Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
  • Illinois Self-Insurers' Association
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association
  • IRTB
  • DRI - The Voice of the Defense Bar
  • The Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
  • Illinois Self-Insurers' Association
10 South LaSalle Street, Suite 900
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: 312-425-3131
211 Landmark Drive, Suite C2
Normal, IL 61761
Phone: 309-862-4914
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211 North Broadway, Suite 2200
St. Louis, MO 63102
Phone: 314-300-0527
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