Illinois’ weather can be brutal. There is no telling what havoc storms will wreak on the state. From torrential rain to piles of snow, or impenetrable ice, Illinois’ weather can change even the hardiest of folks. People know to expect bad weather in Illinois and the effects lousy weather has on the area. Illinois’ courts adopted a rule that makes sense for the weather conditions for the state, even if the application of the law is as harsh as a Chicago winter.
Illinois courts allow business owners and landowners to argue that they had no duty to prevent the plaintiff’s injury if the injury was caused by a natural accumulation of water, snow, or ice. In Illinois, a landowner or someone occupying the property is responsible for another’s injuries sustained while on the premises if the landowner or occupier had a legal duty to protect the person from harm. However, Illinois does not obligate a landowner to clear water, snow, or ice from his or her property, and the landowner will not be liable for any injuries suffered by people who were hurt by the natural accumulation of water, ice, or snow.
What is or is not the natural accumulation of weather is a question for a judge or jury to decide. However, in many cases melting snow that turns to ice would be considered natural accumulation if the snow was unplowed. Similarly, water tracked into a store that pools near the entrance to the business is a natural accumulation of water, according to Illinois courts. Courts reasoned that people who were outside during inclement weather would necessarily bring the elements inside with them.
There are plenty of sound reasons why business owners and landowners plow snow and take measures to prevent tracked-in water from accumulating. Business owners and landowners must act reasonably when altering a natural accumulation of rain, snow, or ice. Snowmelt from plowed snow that freezes over could form the basis of liability for the landowner. Also, a latent defect on the premises can create a duty for the landowner to act if the natural accumulation of precipitation forms on a defect, which then creates a dangerous situation.
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