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Illinois Enshrines “The Natural Accumulation Rule”

Published on November 12th, 2010

Illinois personal injury lawyers representing clients who are injured slipping on snow or ice will now find that the likelihood of obtaining compensation for the client is remote. In Krywin v. Chicago Transit Authority, 238 Ill. 2d 215, 2010 WL 2780319, (2010), the Illinois Supreme Court held: We conclude that the natural accumulation rule applies in
in this case and that the CTA had no duty to remove the natural accumulation of ice and snow from its platform,
nor any duty to warn of the existence of such natural
natural accumulation. 

Over a vigorous dissent by two justices the Supreme Court majority ruled that the natural accumulation rule trumps any duties owed by the CTA as a common carrier to its passengers.

The decision is a little confusing because the court discusses at length whether the CTA has a duty under the traditional duty analysis, namely (1) reasonable foreseeability of the injury; (2) likelihood of the injury; (3) magnitude of the burden of guarding against the injury; and (4) consequences of placing that burden on the defendant. This is the traditional test to determine whether the plaintiff and defendant stood in such a relationship to one another that the law imposes on the defendant an obligation of reasonable conduct for the benefit of the plaintiff. The Appellate Court in reversing a jury verdict for the CTA passenger held that to require the CTA to inspect all its platforms at every station would be impractical. The Appellate Court stated: “The transit system would be brought to a standstill if passengers were not allowed to alight from their trains until a CTA train operator and/or other employee ran around the platform, taking measurements to determine which portion of the platform currently had the least amount of snow or ice or the most sand spread….The magnitude and consequences of imposing such a duty on the CTA would be overwhelmingly detrimental to the efficient performance of the transit system, and so we decline to impose it here.”Krywin v. Chicago Transit Authority391 Ill. App. 3d 663, 670, 909 N.E. 2d 887, 893 (2009).

The Supreme Court’s opinion could reasonably be interpreted as affirming the judgment of the Appellate Court which merely ruled that under the traditional duty analysis that imposing such a burden on the CTA would be “overwhelmingly detrimental to the efficient performance of the transit system.” Under this analysis a valid argument could be made that the language of the Illinois Supreme Court cited above was mere dicta, and unneccesary to affirm the Appellate Court’s judgment that the CTA had no duty under the circumstances presented. Tough argument, but in light of the inherent conflicts with other Illinois Supreme Court opinions pointed out in the cogent reasoning of the dissent, it is an avenue that may be available in the appropriate case.

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