Will County Judge Dismisses Pedestrian Sidewalk Defect Claims

July 12, 2017

On June 29, 2017, Judge Raymond Rossi granted the City’s motion to dismiss in Felisha Johnson v. City of Joliet. Johnson had alleged that she had tripped outside of the Will County courthouse at the edge between cement sidewalk slabs and red paver bricks. After the lawsuit was filed, however, City officials were able to confirm that the cement sidewalk slabs were only ¾ of an inch higher than the red paver bricks. Additionally, defense counsel obtained an overhead videotape from Will County showing exactly how Johnson tripped. In the Amended Complaint, Johnson alleged that (a) the City had laid the red paver bricks many years earlier with this “defect” and (b) Plaintiff was allegedly distracted because of other people walking outside of the courthouse.

Judge Rossi, however, rejected Johnson’s arguments and granted the City’s motion to dismiss. Judge Rossi held that it did not matter who laid the paver bricks, nor did it matter when the bricks were laid. The Court agreed with the City that sidewalk defects under 2” high are generally not actionable in Illinois and that there was no evidence of any aggravating circumstances which would make the de minimis rule inapplicable. With respect to Johnson’s claim that she was distracted, Judge Rossi looked at the County’s videotape and agreed with the City’s argument that the videotape did not show that Johnson was distracted when she tripped. More importantly, Judge Rossi indicated that it was not relevant whether Johnson may have been distracted at the time because the defect in this case was so slight and that allowing persons to sue for such minor defects could conceivably bankrupt cities and suburbs. The City of Joliet was represented in Johnson by Jason Rose and Michael Bersani.

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