Illinois appeals panel reverses dismissal of woman's suit over trip-and-fall in Winnetka parking garage

By Amanda Thomas | Mar 21, 2018

By Zol87 ( [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

CHICAGO — A state appeals panel has reversed a ruling over whether a woman can continue her suit against the village of Winnetka for injuries she said she suffered after tripping in a village-owned parking garage. 

The village had previously won summary judgement in the case involving Margaret Santi, who claimed she caught her foot in a hole, measuring 12-inches by 3 inches by 6 inches, along a seam in the surface on the upper level of the village’s parking garage 

Cook County Circuit Judge James O'Hara had agreed with the village in finding the hole, or "defect" was an “open and obvious” condition of property, and the village couldn't be subject to liability under the “open and obvious danger” rule. 

But in a March 6 decision filed in the Illinois First District Appellate Court in Chicago, Justice Michael B. Hyman said the trial court had “erred in granting the motion for summary judgement,” adding that testimony on the visibility of the defect that caused Santi’s fall created a question “as to whether the defect was open and obvious.” 

Justice Michael B. Hyman

Justices P. Scott Neville Jr. and Aurelia Pucinski concurred in the unpublished order issued under Supreme Court Rule 23, which restricts the order’s use as precedent, expect under limited circumstances permitted by the rule.

Santi sued the village in 2014. 

According to court documents, she was working at a restaurant in 2013, when her boss on the day of the alleged accident told her to park at the garage, which she had never done before. After parking on the upper level, she claimed she walked briskly while looking ahead to find the garage exit, but suddenly tripped and fell.

Santi stated she didn’t see the hole before falling, according to the decision. The village’s defense attorneys, however, argued that the village regularly inspects the garage and the hole was “an open and obvious condition.” 

But Santi argued the defect couldn't be considered “open and obvious” because an employee who inspected the garage “three to five times a week” didn’t see the hole, and the village had never sought to repair it before Santi allegedly tripped over it.

The appellate justices said Judge O'Hara too hastily brushed over the question of whether the defect in the parking deck could be considered "open and obvious." They remanded the case to Cook County court, saying the question needed to be argued and decided before the lawsuit could be either cleared to pull forward, or permanently curbed.

Santi is represented in the case by attorney Todd Heller, of Deerfield.

Winnetka is defended by the firm of Judge & James, of Park Ridge.

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Organizations in this Story

Illinois First District Appellate Court Judge, James, Hoban & Fisher Todd A. Heller & Associates Village of Winnetka

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