Walking the Line: Tort Immunity and Pedestrians Outside the Crosswalk in the City of Chicago
Recently, the First District Appellate Court determined that a pedestrian who “walked the line” and was injured while partially inside and partially outside of a crosswalk was barred from recovering for those injuries from the City of Chicago. In Swain v. City of Chicago, the plaintiff was walking through an intersection and broke his foot while stepping in a pothole just a few inches outside of the marked crosswalk. Swain v. City of Chicago, 2014 IL App (1st) 122769 at ¶ 3.
The Illinois Supreme Court has recognized the well settled rule regarding the duty of a municipality to maintain its street in a reasonably safe condition “is that, since pedestrians are not intended users of streets, a municipality does not owe a duty of reasonable care to pedestrians who attempt to cross a street outside the crosswalks.” Vaughn v. City of West Frankfort, 166 Ill. 2d 155, 158 (1995). The court explained:
“[T]he question of whether a municipality owes a duty does not depend on whether the plaintiff-pedestrian was struck by a moving vehicle or tripped over a pothole, but rather depends on whether the municipality intended that the plaintiff-pedestrian walk in that part of the street where the injury occurred and permitted the plaintiff-pedestrian to do so. We note that, except for those cases in which street defects were in the area immediately around a parked vehicle, Illinois courts have refused to impose a duty on municipalities for injuries to pedestrians which were caused by those defects.” Vaughn, 166 Ill. 2d at 163. [emphasis added]
Vaughn further held that “local municipalities owe no duty to maintain streets and roadways in a reasonably safe condition for pedestrians who choose to cross the street outside the protection of the crosswalks.” Id. at 164.
This case serves as a reminder that public bodies benefit by having well maintained intersections and crosswalks that are clearly marked. When injuries allegedly occur within those intersections or crosswalks, the public body should take immediate action to (1) obtain an exact description of where the “injury” occurred and (2) examine and document the intersection and area immediately surrounding.