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A property owner has a duty to provide a safe means of ingress and egress only for areas clearly designated for such purposes.

Rogers v Matanda. Inc, No. 3-07-0855; 2009 WL 1531804 (3rd D 2009)

On May 29, 2009, the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District, affirmed the Circuit Court of Warren County's grant of summary judgment for the defendant after the plaintiff fell and injured himself on the defendant's property and sued defendant. Plaintiff alleged that the defendant bar owner had breached his duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of invitees by failing to provide a reasonably safe means of ingress and egress.

In November 2005, the plaintiff went to the defendant's pub to celebrate his birthday and entered the bar without incident after dark. That evening, the plaintiff drank beer and approximately eighteen mixed drinks. Friends of the plaintiff testified during their depositions that they removed the plaintiff from the bar through the rear exit. When the friends blocked plaintiff from reentering the bar through the rear door, he attempted to walk around the building. The pub was located on Main Street, which ran north and south, and the pub faced west. The elevation of the ground at the rear of the pub was different than that of the building to the north, and plaintiff fell, dropping several feet. Plaintiff suffered injuries, although he did not recall falling. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant breached his duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of invitees because the lighting created the illusion that the ground remained flat behind the pub, the defendant failed to barricade the property at the point in the change in elevation, and the defendant failed to warn the plaintiff of the change in elevation. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment and the trial court granted the motion, finding that the area where the fall occurred was not within the area prescribed as a means of ingress and egress to the pub, and as a result, the defendant had no duty to provide lighting, barricades, or warnings of the drop-off.

Conceding that a tavern owner had a duty to provide a safe means of ingress and egress and this duty required proper illumination, the appellate court ruled that there was no evidence in the record that suggested that the means of ingress and egress provided by the defendant were anything but safe and well-illuminated. The court relied on the plaintiff's own testimony which stated that he safely traversed the prescribed area to enter the pub earlier in the night. Furthermore, the court ruled that the fact the "plaintiff took a frolic beyond the prescribed means of ingress and egress [did] not expand the defendant's duty" since the plaintiff did not allege that the area in which he fell was either a designated means of ingress of egress or that it became the assumed means through repeated use. Secondly, although the plaintiff argued that the defendant failed to illuminate, barricade, or warn of a known, dangerous condition on its property, the appellate court ruled that he failed to produce evidence necessary to establish that the allegedly dangerous condition on the property was the proximate cause of his injuries because "there [was] simply no evidence regarding the mechanism of the plaintiff's fall."

Consequently, the appellate court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant be cause the defendant did not breach its duty to provide a safe means of ingress and egress and the plaintiff failed to prove that the allegedly dangerous condition on the property was the proximate cause of his injuries.
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Title Annotation:cases: ILLINOIS APPELLATE COURTS
Author:Carpenter, Yulee
Publication:Illinois Bar Journal
Date:Aug 1, 2009
Words:583
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