Arlington Heights to Change Snow Removal Methods after Lawsuit

A slip and fall accident by an Arlington resident is changing the way the city is handling its snow removal process. Chicago injury lawyers hope the settlement of this slip and fall lawsuit will prevent further harm to Illinois residents.

The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by Jeannie Nishime Johnston and her husband, after Johnston fell at an Eastman Street parking garage due to an unnatural accumulation of ice by the stairwell. Arlington Heights snow removal workers were previously instructed to relocate snow equally into each corner of the site they were clearing. In the case of the Eastman Street garage, the snow was pushed into a corner that also contained a stairwell.

One morning in late February, Johnston parked in the Eastman Street garage as part of her daily commute to downtown Chicago. As Johnston headed to the train, she slipped on an unnaturally large buildup of ice just off the garage’s stairwell and fractured her leg. She called her husband for help, who, upon his arrival, fell on the same ice spot. The couple claims they saw numerous other people fall in the area, although village officials state there are no official records of reported falls.

The lawsuit accused Arlington Heights of negligence, and alleged that Johnston’s husband was deprived of companionship due to the injury, seeking at least $50,000 in damages and loss of consortium. The Arlington Heights board approved a $49,500 settlement at a meeting in mid-December. The case did not go to trial, as both parties agreed to a settlement.

The city’s director of public works claims that the ice buildup was a natural accumulation, and the city accomplished due diligence in maintenance. Snow fell that February morning before 5 a.m., and maintenance crews salted and flowed by 5:30. Parking garages are always considered sensitive areas, especially when located next to commuter train stations, and are the first areas responded to.

Arlington Heights workers will now be required to pile snow in three corners of each site and avoid areas near stairwells. This method change will take effect this 2013 winter season. Wintertime, especially in the Midwest, is a dangerous season for falls. Safely and efficiently clearing sidewalks and parking garages are just as important as clearing roadways, especially in metropolitan areas, where the majority of residents walk or take public transportation to get around.

Private parking lots also need to be properly maintained to avoid injury. While local city crews work to clear streets and public areas of dangerous ice and snow, it is the responsibility of private home and business owners to clear their own sidewalks and walking areas. Citizens in Syracuse, New York, for example, are taking to walking on roadways because the majority of sidewalks are still slippery and snow-covered.

Syracuse officials are pleading home and business owners to shovel their sidewalks and parking lots, although the response has been minimal. Citizens face a ticket and a fine if they do not comply with snow-removal guidelines, but enforcement is tricky. City council is considering raising the fines to prompt compliance and faster response times.

If someone is hit by a car because sidewalks were inadequately maintained and they had to walk on the street, the responsible private owner or government entity is liable for their injuries. Anyone who slipped and fell on ice or snow that should have been reasonably cleared may have a potential claim. Accident and injury lawyers are available any time of day or night to review slip and fall cases.

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