Foust v. Forest Pres. Dist. of Cook Cnty., Nos. 1–16–0873

CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtPresiding Justice GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Citation408 Ill.Dec. 218,65 N.E.3d 440
Docket Number1–16–0874.,Nos. 1–16–0873
Decision Date30 September 2016
Parties Joe FOUST, as Administrator of the Estate of Molly Anne Glynn, Deceased, Plaintiff–Appellee and Cross–Appellant, v. The FOREST PRESERVE DISTRICT OF COOK COUNTY, Defendant–Appellant and Cross–Appellee.

65 N.E.3d 440
408 Ill.Dec.
218

Joe FOUST, as Administrator of the Estate of Molly Anne Glynn, Deceased, Plaintiff–Appellee and Cross–Appellant,
v.
The FOREST PRESERVE DISTRICT OF COOK COUNTY, Defendant–Appellant and Cross–Appellee.

Nos. 1–16–0873
1–16–0874.

Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division.

Sept. 30, 2016.
Rehearing Denied Nov. 18, 2016.


65 N.E.3d 441

Robert L. Baker, of Forest Preserve District of Cook County, of Chicago, for appellant.

Debra I. Crystal, of Chicago, and Joseph A. Terc, of Arlington Heights, for appellee.

OPINION

Presiding Justice GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

408 Ill.Dec. 219

¶ 1 The instant consolidated interlocutory appeals arise from plaintiff's lawsuit against defendant, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, after the death of Molly Anne Glynn, a woman who was killed when she was struck by a tree limb while riding her bicycle on one of defendant's

408 Ill.Dec. 220
65 N.E.3d 442

paved bicycle paths. After defendant filed a motion to dismiss based on immunity under four sections of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/1–101 et seq. (West 2012)), the trial court found that defendant was immune from liability for its negligent conduct under one section, but that it was not immune under the other three sections. The trial court certified two questions concerning immunity for review pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308 (eff. Jan. 1, 2015), and each party filed a petition for leave to appeal concerning one of the two questions. We allowed both petitions for leave to appeal and consolidated the two appeals. For the reasons that follow, we now answer the trial court's first certified question in the affirmative and the second certified question in the negative.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 I. Complaint

¶ 4 On February 17, 2015, plaintiff filed a four-count amended complaint against defendant, alleging that on September 5, 2014, decedent Molly Anne Glynn was riding her bicycle through Erickson Woods1 on a bicycle path owned and maintained by defendant. According to the complaint, "[o]n September 5, 2014, and for a long time prior thereto, there existed trees, shrubs and other vegetation in close proximity to the edges of the bike path." While decedent was operating her bicycle, "a large section of diseased, defective and weakened tree broke off[,] crashing towards the ground and striking" decedent, who died the next day from her injuries.

¶ 5 Count I of the complaint was a survival action for negligence and alleged that defendant was negligent in (1) failing to adequately inspect the trees, shrubs, and vegetation along the bicycle path "when it knew or should have known that some of the trees, shrubs or vegetation presented a risk to persons using the bike path"; (2) failing to inspect the trees, shrubs, and vegetation for signs of disease or other weakened conditions "that could result in trees or portions of trees, shrubs or vegetations falling onto the bike path"; (3) failing to prune, trim, or remove diseased or otherwise weakened trees, shrubs, or vegetation or parts thereof "that were located adjacent to and in close proximity to the bike path"; (4) failing to maintain the property free from unreasonable risks to persons using the bicycle path; (5) disregarding notice of deceased or otherwise weakened trees, shrubs, or vegetation or parts thereof "that were located adjacent to and in close proximity to the bike path"; (6) failing to properly inspect or maintain trees, shrubs, or vegetation after receiving notice of the dangerous conditions of the trees, shrubs, or vegetation "near the bike path"; (7) failing to provide a safe means of ingress and egress from the bicycle path; (8) failing to give adequate warning to users of the bicycle path despite having notice of the presence of trees, shrubs, and vegetation that were diseased or weakened; and (9) failing to barricade or otherwise prevent the use of the bicycle path in the area where trees, shrubs, and vegetation were diseased or weakened despite having notice of the presence of such trees, shrubs, or vegetation. Count I alleged that as a result of such negligent acts, decedent "was struck by a tree, shrub or vegetation or a limb or part thereof that was located adjacent to and in close proximity to the bike path causing her to suffer

408 Ill.Dec. 221
65 N.E.3d 443

injuries and damages including conscious pain and suffering prior to her death on September 6, 2014."

¶ 6 Count II was a wrongful death action for negligence and contained similar allegations as count I, except that it alleged that decedent left her husband (the administrator of her estate and the plaintiff in the instant case) and her two children as her survivors.

¶ 7 Count III was a survival action alleging willful and wanton conduct on the part of defendant. Count III included similar allegations to counts I and II, except it added allegations that defendant had inspected the trees, shrubs, and vegetation along the bicycle path in Erickson Woods, including the tree that struck decedent, and knew that there were trees, shrubs, or other vegetation that were diseased or otherwise weakened and presented a risk of harm to persons using the bicycle path and placed "X's" on those trees. Count III alleged that defendant's inspection included all of the trees, shrubs, and other vegetation in the area within 50 feet of the place where decedent was injured. Count III enumerated the same problems with defendant's conduct as in counts I and II, except that count III alleged that defendant engaged in its conduct "[w]ith an utter indifference and a conscious disregard for the safety of the public and Molly Anne Glynn."

¶ 8 Finally, count IV was a wrongful death action alleging willful and wanton conduct on the part of defendant. Count IV was similar to count III, except it alleged that decedent left her husband and her two children as her survivors.

¶ 9 II. Motion to Dismiss

¶ 10 On March 10, 2015, defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to section 2–619(a)(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2–619(a)(9) (West 2014)), arguing that defendant was immune from liability pursuant to sections 3–107(b), 2–201, 3–104, and 3–106 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Tort Immunity Act) (745 ILCS 10/3–107(b), 2–201, 3–104, 3–106 (West 2012)). Only immunity pursuant to sections 3–107(b) and 3–106 are at issue on the instant appeal, so we relate the parties' arguments concerning only those sections.

¶ 11 With respect to section 3–107(b), which provides immunity for an injury caused by a condition of "[a]ny hiking, riding, fishing or hunting trail" (745 ILCS 10/3–107(b) (West 2012)), defendant argued that "plaintiff's Amended Complaint is solely and unambiguously based upon the condition of the Trail, namely the presence of weakened trees along the Trail." Defendant further argued that the character of the trail established it as a "riding trail" under section 3–107(b). Accordingly, defendant argued that the section 3–107(b) immunity applied.

¶ 12 With respect to section 3–106, which provides immunity for ordinary negligence claims2 "where the liability is based on the existence of a condition of any public property intended or permitted to be used for recreational purposes, including but not limited to parks, playgrounds, open areas, buildings or other enclosed recreational facilities" (745 ILCS 10/3–106 (West 2012) ), defendant argued that counts I and II should be dismissed because the trail was intended and permitted to be used for recreational purposes.

¶ 13 Attached to defendant's motion to dismiss was the affidavit of John McCabe, the director of defendant's department of

408 Ill.Dec. 222
65 N.E.3d 444

resource management and a certified arborist. McCabe identified the bicycle path in question as defendant's North Branch Paved Trail, which was open to the public daily from dawn until dusk for hiking, jogging, dog walking, cross country skiing, inline skating, and bicycling, as well as providing access to natural areas for fishing, canoeing, and bird watching. McCabe stated that the trail extended from Dundee Road on the north to Devon Avenue on the south, a total distance of approximately 20 miles, and wound through forested areas, the Skokie Lagoons, and along the north branch of the Chicago River. McCabe indicated that defendant's statutory mission was to acquire and hold lands " ‘for the purpose of protecting and preserving the flora, fauna, and scenic beauties within such district * * * as nearly as may be, in their natural state and condition, for the purpose of the education, pleasure, and recreation of the public’ " (quoting 70 ILCS 810/7 (West 2012) ), and that in managing the "flora, fauna, and scenic beauties of the District," defendant exercised its discretion in deciding how to best manage those resources "consistent...

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2 cases
  • McChristian v. Brink, 1–15–2674.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
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    ...entity that is not a hospital and a treating physician who is within the control group of the medical entity but whose actions are 408 Ill.Dec. 21865 N.E.3d 440not alleged to be a basis for the patient's injuries.--------Notes:1 Pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308 (eff. Jan. 1, 2015......
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    ...only to those injuries caused by naturally occurring conditions. Cf. Foust v. ForestPreserve District, 2016 IL App (1st) 160873, ¶ 48, 408 Ill.Dec. 218, 65 N.E.3d 440 ("The plain language of [ section 3-107(b) ] thus requires the injury to be caused by a 86 N.E.3d 1277condition of a trail, ......

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