The liability of an owner or occupier of land to others on the property has been the subject of legal disputes for many years, dating back to the days of common law courts. As the theory of premises liability evolved, courts created a body of case decisions that broke down the owner or occupier’s duty of reasonable care into different types depending on the status of the person injured on the land. These status types included people who were considered to be invitees, licensees, trespassers, and so forth. Each was owed a different kind of duty of care.
Legal cases involving premises liability in Illinois could become confusing as a result, with part of the battle being to determine which category the plaintiff belonged in. On top of that, there are some types of people to whom a special duty of care applies, such as children who trespass onto property that has on it hazardous conditions, terrain features or items that children in their naive curiosity find irresistible — thus was born the “attractive nuisance” doctrine on top of the other classes of people on the property.
Over time, some states have sought ways to make premises liability law easier to understand and to apply. Illinois is one such state, having enacted changes to the law in the form of the “Premises Liability Act.” The Act has done away with some of the status classifications, notably the distinction between invitees and licensees. The law now applies a more uniform standard of care for landowners and occupiers to observe without having to contend with as many different variations. Note, though, that the law still has a separate standard of care for trespassers, and retains the attractive nuisance doctrine with regard to children.
This post is intended only to provide an introduction to the topic of premises liability law in Illinois, and is not an exhaustive examination of the subject. It does not, for example, set forth the exact elements of the property owner’s or occupier’s duty of care. Accordingly, you should read this information for general informative purposes only. If you have specific questions about Illinois premises liability, or believe that you may have a premises liability claim, you should communicate with a personal injury law firm that handles cases of this type.