Court Grants Discretionary Immunity in Sidewalk Defect Case

June 27, 2017

In Monson v. The City of Danville, 2017 IL App (4th) 160593, Barbara Monson tripped and fell on an uneven sidewalk seam maintained by the City of Danville. Monson required nine stitches, bruising and dental work as a result of her fall. Monson sued the City, alleging that the City’s negligence and willful and wanton misconduct in failing to repair a less than 2-inch deviation between two slabs of sidewalk concrete was the direct and proximate cause of her fall. At summary judgment, the City presented evidence that, several years before Monson’s fall, the City’s superintendent of downtown services walked the City’s downtown district and spray painted places she believed required repair. She toured the sites with the City’s engineering to determine what recommendations, if any, were necessary. The director of public works made the final decision as to which portions of the sidewalks were in need to repair and which portions were not. The City presented testimony that the decision to repair, replace or remove a slab of sidewalk concrete is a case-by-case determination which considered several factors, including height of deviation and costs.

The trial court granted summary judgment in the City’s favor, finding that the City was entitled to statutory discretionary immunity under §2-201 of the Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act. Monson appealed, arguing that the lower court misapplied the immunity afforded by the Act. The Appellate Court rejected Monson’s contention and affirmed the judgment below.

The Appellate Court noted that discretionary immunity afforded under §2-201 of the Act is not applicable unless the plaintiff’s injuries were the result of acts performed or omitted by the public entity in determining policy and exercising discretion in executing that policy. Here, the acts or omissions that challenged by Monson constituted discretionary acts and policy determinations taken by the City’s public works director. Relying on the testimony of the superintendent and the public works director, the Appellate Court found that these individuals determined the policy to apply to sidewalk repairs and exercised discretion when implementing the policy considerations in the downtown sidewalk project.

Monson v. City of Danville

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