Premises Liability in Illinois: “Open and Obvious” Dangers and the Distraction Exception

When a person is injured on another person’s property, and their injuries were a direct result of the property owner’s negligence, premises liability law applies. These laws protect the guests of homes and business by holding property owners responsible for maintaining a safe environment.

Cases of “Open and Obvious” Hazards

Premises liability law in Illinois is often complex and carries various legal nuances, including the condition of "open and obvious" hazards.

In the state of Illinois, there is some responsibility on guests to use their own judgment on potentially unsafe property. Illinois’ Premises Liability Act includes stipulations that determine a property owner is not liable for injuries that occur on their property if the plaintiff was aware of the unsafe conditions. Specifically, the law states, “The duty of reasonable care under the circumstances which an owner or occupier of land owes to such entrants does not include any of the following: a duty to warn of or otherwise take reasonable steps to protect such entrants from conditions on the premises that are known to the entrant, are open and obvious, or can reasonably be expected to be discovered by the entrant.”

Premises liability laws around the country generally require property owners to not only create safe conditions for guests, but also to warn of any conditions that can cause injury. Illinois law waives this responsibility in cases where a guest is expected to be aware of the danger.

Liability When Distractions are Present

There is an exception to the “open and obvious” defense: the presence of distractions. In cases where the dangerous condition is deemed obvious, but the plaintiff was distracted by something else on the property, causing them harm, a court may rule in favor of the plaintiff. The distraction exception does not protect property guests if they provided their own distraction, such as tripping over something because they were looking at their phone.

At McHargue & Jones, LLC, our skilled attorneys are prepared to represent you. If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, contact us online or call (312) 739-0000 to discover your options. Our consultations are completely free!