Chicago personal injury attorney Peter Higgins helps redefine how a “trail” will be considered in the future by Illinois courts in a case where his client was injured on a bicycle trail. The case thus has significant potential benefit for persons- cyclists, runners, walkers and skaters- injured on damaged bike paths.

Personal injury trial lawyer Peter Higgins successfully handled an appeal (Case No. 121536) before the Illinois Supreme Court that established the law on what constitutes a bicycle trail throughout Illinois. The case stems from an incident in which Higgins’ client, Kathy Corbett, was riding her bike on the Skokie Valley Bike Path in Highland Park, Illinois and was thrown off her bike while riding over an allegedly defective portion of the bicycle trail, of which the defendants allegedly had prior knowledge of, and sustained severe injuries.

Court documents state that the plaintiff alleged her injuries were proximately caused by the willful and wanton acts or omissions of the defendant, the City of Highland Park, who was under a contract to maintain the trail in a safe condition. Court documents further state that the City filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, citing a section of the Illinois Tort Immunity Act that states that municipalities are absolutely immune from liability for injuries occurring on “riding trails,” which was granted by the trial court.

Due to the trial court’s decision, attorney for the plaintiff Higgins successfully appealed the case before the Illinois Appellate Court, and the City of Highland Park appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, again seeking to have the case dismissed. However, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court’s decision, allowing the plaintiff to continue with her case.

The Supreme Court determined that the path was not a “riding trail” as contemplated by Section 3-107 (b) of the Illinois Tort Immunity Act and that the City of Highland Park was not to be afforded absolute immunity. The Supreme Court went on to clarify which trails were covered by the Act and which were not. The trails that are covered and provide municipalities with absolute immunity from lawsuits include “any designated hiking, riding, fishing or hunting trail that retains its original, natural surface and is not improved with asphalt, concrete, crushed aggregate or similar finishes and which is not intended for ordinary ‘on-road’ type bicycles, bicyclists pulling children in trailers, pedestrians pushing strollers or similar forms of transportation.” The trails that are not covered are shared-use paths, paved with asphalt and held out for use by bicyclists, pedestrians and in-line skaters.

“Lipkin & Higgins went the extra mile to pursue a technicality so that the case might remain alive,” said Higgins. “We pursued this case all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court for the exclusive purpose of protecting the right of our client to make her case. This is not only a great result for our client but it’s a great result for anyone who uses these types of trails in Illinois, because it forces the municipalities to maintain their trails in a safe condition.”

Read More: "Supreme Court Blazes New Trail for Cyclists; Narrows Scope of Immunity Under Section 3-107(b)" featured in Trial Journal