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  #1  
Old 01-19-2011, 12:44 PM
carsarenotthefuture carsarenotthefuture is offline
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Icy Sidewalks: Who is responsible?

As I'm sure many Chicagoans will agree, the last couple days have been treacherous ones for pedestrians making their way around town. Many of the sidewalks in the city are slicker than an ice rink after the Zamboni sweeps over it. Some folks make sure their sidewalks are cleared and salted, others seem content to do nothing and let ice and snow accumulate to frustrating levels.

My question is this. What are the relevant city laws here regarding who is responsible for clearing and salting sidewalks? Is there a city ordinance that requires property owners to clear and salt sidewalks? If so, what is it, and how does one get it enforced? Are landlords in courtyard buildings required to salt and clear their courtyards?

What recourse does a frustrated pedestrian have here?

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 01-19-2011, 12:49 PM
dolphinboy dolphinboy is offline
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Here's an interesting article on the subject...

http://chicagopersonalinjurylegalblo...ordinance.html

and another...

http://www.chicagoaccidentinjurylawy...ges_sid_1.html

Last edited by dolphinboy; 01-19-2011 at 12:51 PM..
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  #3  
Old 01-19-2011, 01:01 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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They don't give out tickets in this age of budget shortfalls? It sucks your city won't enforce their snow removal ordinances.

In Madison Wisconsin in 2010 Ald. Chris Schmidt tried to make the closest property owner to bus stops liable for keeping them clear of snow and ice to save the city money. It didn't fly. Maybe next time she can try for snow removal from the street in front of the property and save even more.
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Old 01-19-2011, 03:07 PM
jtgain jtgain is offline
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I've never understood these ordinances:

1) If the sidewalk is city property, then they need to clean it off. Forcing me to clean their property without pay is tantamount to slavery.

2) If the sidewalk is my property, then I'll leave ten feet of snow on it if I damn well please. If someone falls on it, then I owe them no duty because they are trespassing on my land. In fact, I will charge everyone a toll who passes by.
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  #5  
Old 01-19-2011, 03:16 PM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtgain View Post
I've never understood these ordinances:

1) If the sidewalk is city property, then they need to clean it off. Forcing me to clean their property without pay is tantamount to slavery.

2) If the sidewalk is my property, then I'll leave ten feet of snow on it if I damn well please. If someone falls on it, then I owe them no duty because they are trespassing on my land. In fact, I will charge everyone a toll who passes by.
I thought the sidewalk to your house, while yours, was considered a public access piece of property. For instance, you cannot have the Girl Scouts ringing your doorbell to sell you cookies charged with trespassing. They are legally allowed to be there (you can ask them to leave of course and they have to but just using your sidewalk to your front door is not trespass).

As such that sidewalk is your responsibility and if someone slips and falls while making proper use of the sidewalk (say the mail delivery person) and gets hurt because you neglected to clear it you may find yourself getting sued.

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 01-19-2011 at 03:17 PM..
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  #6  
Old 01-19-2011, 03:19 PM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is offline
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Originally Posted by jtgain View Post
I've never understood these ordinances:

1) If the sidewalk is city property, then they need to clean it off. Forcing me to clean their property without pay is tantamount to slavery.

2) If the sidewalk is my property, then I'll leave ten feet of snow on it if I damn well please. If someone falls on it, then I owe them no duty because they are trespassing on my land. In fact, I will charge everyone a toll who passes by.
To muddy the waters even further, the City of Calgary expects homeowners to take care of city property in front of homeowners' houses, but the City does not return the favour by taking care of city sidewalks in front of city property (except in a very half-assed way). The game is totally rigged in their favour.
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  #7  
Old 01-19-2011, 03:36 PM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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In my Boston-area town the home or building owners are responsible in most places. There are some exceptions where the city will plow the sidewalks, but not many. Alas, enforcement is very lax, as opposed to the parking enforcement.
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  #8  
Old 01-19-2011, 03:43 PM
Magiver Magiver is offline
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It depends if lawsuits have made it to a state supreme court. In my State they ruled that a property owner could not be compelled to clear a sidewalk. The legal problem then becomes if you DO clear your sidewalk you've bought yourself some liability. So if I'm out of salt and it looks like a melt/refreeze event then I don't clear anything.
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Old 01-19-2011, 07:10 PM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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Originally Posted by Magiver View Post
It depends if lawsuits have made it to a state supreme court. In my State they ruled that a property owner could not be compelled to clear a sidewalk. The legal problem then becomes if you DO clear your sidewalk you've bought yourself some liability. So if I'm out of salt and it looks like a melt/refreeze event then I don't clear anything.
Right. Absent a law to the contrary (which Chicago may well have enacted), under the common law the property owner has no duty to clear his walk of natural hazards, such as snow and ice. However, if he does something - anything - to the snow or ice, then he does become liable. The best policy is to just leave it.

Whack-a-Mole:
Quote:
I thought the sidewalk to your house, while yours, was considered a public access piece of property... As such that sidewalk is your responsibility and if someone slips and falls while making proper use of the sidewalk (say the mail delivery person) and gets hurt because you neglected to clear it you may find yourself getting sued.
You may get sued, but you won't be liable, absent a statute to the contrary. Moreover, you may not have fee simple to the sidewalk. I'm not going into a long discussion of sidewalk title here, especially for
Chicago. (Suffice it to say, for the property in the Original Town of Chicago, the adjoining owners do own the fee simple, subject to an easement to the public.) In many instances, all you may have is an easement, with title being dedicated to the city. This is especially true for Illinois since the enactment of the Plat Act (around 1900), which states that if the platted and subdivided property conforms to the Plat Act, title to the streets dedicated (which would include sidewalks) is in the municipality.
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  #10  
Old 01-19-2011, 07:19 PM
Rumor_Watkins Rumor_Watkins is offline
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Originally Posted by jtgain View Post
I've never understood these ordinances:

1) If the sidewalk is city property, then they need to clean it off. Forcing me to clean their property without pay is tantamount to slavery.

2) If the sidewalk is my property, then I'll leave ten feet of snow on it if I damn well please. If someone falls on it, then I owe them no duty because they are trespassing on my land. In fact, I will charge everyone a toll who passes by.
ugh. nevermind.

Last edited by Rumor_Watkins; 01-19-2011 at 07:20 PM..
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  #11  
Old 01-19-2011, 08:13 PM
BorgHunter BorgHunter is offline
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According to the Chicago Municipal Code:
Quote:
10-8-180 Snow and ice removal.

Every owner, lessee, tenant, occupant or other person having charge of any building or lot of ground in the city abutting upon any public way or public place shall remove the snow and ice from the sidewalk in front of such building or lot of ground.

If the sidewalk is of greater width than five feet, it shall not be necessary for such person to remove snow and ice from the same for a space wider than five feet.

In case the snow and ice on the sidewalk shall be frozen so hard that it cannot be removed without injury to the pavement, the person having charge of any building or lot of ground as aforesaid shall, within the time specified, cause the sidewalk abutting on the said premises to be strewn with ashes, sand, sawdust, or some similar suitable material, and shall, as soon thereafter as the weather shall permit, thoroughly clean said sidewalk.

The snow which falls or accumulates during the day (excepting Sundays) before four p.m. shall be removed within three hours after the same has fallen or accumulated. The snow which falls or accumulates on Sunday or after four p.m. and during the night on other days shall be removed before ten a.m.
As was noted upthread, though, it's never enforced. What the point in having laws that don't get enforced is, I have no idea.
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  #12  
Old 01-19-2011, 08:47 PM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Originally Posted by barbitu8 View Post
You may get sued, but you won't be liable, absent a statute to the contrary.
Quote:
Originally Posted by BorgHunter View Post
According to the Chicago Municipal Code:

As was noted upthread, though, it's never enforced. What the point in having laws that don't get enforced is, I have no idea.
Looks like a statute to me. While the city may not enforce it the law would seem to indicate the owner has a liability there to clear the sidewalk.

That said IANAL. Just looks like that to me.
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  #13  
Old 01-19-2011, 09:25 PM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Just to muddy the waters further....

What if you are on vacation? Or a sunbird who spends the winter in Florida?

As a homeowner (given the Chicago code in this case) are you expected to contract with someone to clear snow/ice for you?

(Really asking here...I have no clue on this.)
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  #14  
Old 01-19-2011, 09:40 PM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Originally Posted by Whack-a-Mole View Post
Looks like a statute to me. While the city may not enforce it the law would seem to indicate the owner has a liability there to clear the sidewalk.

That said IANAL. Just looks like that to me.
Law <!=> Statute. That is most likely a municipal ordinance (does Illinois regard municipal codes as large ordinances?). Ordinarily statutes are the exclusive prerogative of legislatures of sovereign entities.

My experience in New York was that sidewalks were titled to the property owner, subject to an easement to the municipality, which could compel their clearing. In fact, many roads were similarly easements -- the underlying title extended to the middle of the road. State highways would be abandoned to the county, which would make them county roads; county roads would be abandoned to the town(ship); and town roads would be abandoned to the landowners.
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  #15  
Old 01-19-2011, 09:47 PM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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Originally Posted by Whack-a-Mole View Post
As a homeowner (given the Chicago code in this case) are you expected to contract with someone to clear snow/ice for you?
Up here in Boston the answer is yes.
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  #16  
Old 01-19-2011, 09:50 PM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
Law <!=> Statute. That is most likely a municipal ordinance (does Illinois regard municipal codes as large ordinances?). Ordinarily statutes are the exclusive prerogative of legislatures of sovereign entities.
Beats me.

Property rights (and the associated issues attendant to them) seem like they should be straightforward at first glance. When delved into more deeply they are murky and confusing and the realm of lawyers and courts and lots of money and time to sort out.

As shown in this thread already there is no clear answer to a seemingly simple question. More, it is apparent a simple answer, or even an idea on what we think would be ideal, cannot be arrived at.
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  #17  
Old 01-19-2011, 10:18 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is online now
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Originally Posted by barbitu8 View Post
Right. Absent a law to the contrary (which Chicago may well have enacted), under the common law the property owner has no duty to clear his walk of natural hazards, such as snow and ice. However, if he does something - anything - to the snow or ice, then he does become liable. The best policy is to just leave it.
My uninformed recollection is that some places hold that the homeowner is not liable for "open and obvious" hazards; i.e., what a pedestrian could reasonably be expected to see. So, snow that other foot traffic has tamped down to ice, or ice that has been covered by snow, could potentially be a source of liability under this formulation.

This is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created, intended, or implied.
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  #18  
Old 01-19-2011, 10:18 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is online now
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As noted, Chicago has a municipal ordinance requiring property owners to remove ice and snow from sidewalks in front of their property. However, Illinois also follows the rule that there is no liability for falls caused by natural accumulations of snow or ice. So a property owner who follows the ordinance but doesn't do it well may be liable for a slip and fall. Had they left the ice and snow alone, no liability would attach.
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Old 01-19-2011, 11:35 PM
snailboy snailboy is offline
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Let me get this straight, there are cities where landowners and tenants are forced by law to clear the city's sidewalks in front of their house, and when they do, they become liable for injuries people incur walking on it? I'm dumbfounded.
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Old 01-19-2011, 11:52 PM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Originally Posted by snailboy View Post
Let me get this straight, there are cities where landowners and tenants are forced by law to clear the city's sidewalks in front of their house, and when they do, they become liable for injuries people incur walking on it? I'm dumbfounded.
Welcome to the vagaries of the law.

To be clear IANAL so I may be getting this wrong. Hopefully a legal eagle will show and sort it. My understanding of what you are asking is something like this:


- You are out of town and a storm occurs that puts ice on your sidewalk. Someone walks up it and slips and gets hurt.

Not your fault.


- You are in town and a storm occurs that puts ice on your sidewalk. You do nothing. Someone walks up it and slips and gets hurt.

May or may not be your fault depending on the law where you live.


- You are in town and a storm occurs that puts ice on your sidewalk. You take some action to clear the sidewalk but miss a spot. Someone walks up it, steps on the spot you missed and slips and gets hurt.

Your fault. You took responsibility for the area, presumably people walking up your sidewalk saw a clear path thus they were "surprised" stepping on the spot you missed.


Frankly I think the difference here is less the law and more how good your lawyer is versus the other person's lawyer.

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 01-19-2011 at 11:52 PM..
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  #21  
Old 01-20-2011, 05:48 AM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
Law <!=> Statute. That is most likely a municipal ordinance (does Illinois regard municipal codes as large ordinances?). Ordinarily statutes are the exclusive prerogative of legislatures of sovereign entities.

My experience in New York was that sidewalks were titled to the property owner, subject to an easement to the municipality, which could compel their clearing. In fact, many roads were similarly easements -- the underlying title extended to the middle of the road. State highways would be abandoned to the county, which would make them county roads; county roads would be abandoned to the town(ship); and town roads would be abandoned to the landowners.
When I said "statute" I meant to include ordinances by municipalities, as I noted later when I said "absent any law to the contrary."

The NY law is the common law, and was the law in Illinois until the enactment of the Plat Act, which changed it so that the abutting owner gets title to half the public way. The abutting owners in downtown Chicago have title to half the streets. They have used the underground portions of those streets for their own use, a little known fact. Another important difference is that upon vacation of the public way (or "abandonment" as some jurisdictions refer to it), title to half the street goes to the abutting owner, which is why that upon conveyance, the deed should include title to all interest in abutting streets, alleys, etc. (If only the lot is conveyed, half of the street is not included, although that probably was the intent.) Anyway, that's a digression.

That portion of the Chicago ordinance quoted does not state what the penalty would be in the event of violation. The penalty provisions probably appears elsewhere in the municipal ordinance. Although the ordinance may not make the owner liable directly, it does impose a duty upon the owner. As a result, the owner probably would be liable.

Tom Tildrum:
Quote:
My uninformed recollection is that some places hold that the homeowner is not liable for "open and obvious" hazards; i.e., what a pedestrian could reasonably be expected to see. So, snow that other foot traffic has tamped down to ice, or ice that has been covered by snow, could potentially be a source of liability under this formulation.
We covered torts in law school 40 years ago (editorial "we"), but my recollection is that so long as the homeowner does nothing - and I mean nothing - he is not liable for natural occurrences,such as snow. If the owner puts salt on it, causing partially melting and then freezing, he would be liable if anybody slipped on it. Case law may be contrary in some jurisdictions as to "hidden" hazards.
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Old 01-20-2011, 06:07 AM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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Let me amend my prior post. The Plat Act gives the municipality title to the street. Downtown Chicago is in the OT of Chicago, subdivided before the Plat Act. Conveyances now don't have to include all interest in adjoining streets, public ways, etc., if the lot is in a subdivision which conforms to the Plat Act. However, statutes in abrogation of the common law must be strictly construed, and if the developer erred in some respect as to the Plat Act (such as not getting an official seal), the common law would govern the subdivision. Hence, it's a good idea to use those words in all deeds.
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  #23  
Old 01-20-2011, 06:14 AM
BorgHunter BorgHunter is offline
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Originally Posted by barbitu8 View Post
That portion of the Chicago ordinance quoted does not state what the penalty would be in the event of violation. The penalty provisions probably appears elsewhere in the municipal ordinance. Although the ordinance may not make the owner liable directly, it does impose a duty upon the owner. As a result, the owner probably would be liable.
No, actually. The section immediately following that one:
Quote:
10-8-190 Liability for civil damages.

Any person who removes snow or ice from the public sidewalk or street, shall not, as a result of his acts or omissions in such removal, be liable for civil damages. This section does not apply to acts or omissions amounting to wilful or wanton misconduct in such snow or ice removal.
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  #24  
Old 01-20-2011, 09:34 AM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is online now
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Originally Posted by barbitu8 View Post
The Plat Act gives the municipality title to the street. Downtown Chicago is in the OT of Chicago, subdivided before the Plat Act. . . if the developer erred in some respect as to the Plat Act (such as not getting an official seal), the common law would govern the subdivision.
Can you elaborate?

The original townsite of Chicago, north of Madison and west of State, was platted and sold by the Canal Commissioners. Merely by terms of the recorded dimensions, I don't believe the lots they sold extended into or under the platted streets regardless of whether a Plat Act was in effect.

The School Section, from Madison to Roosevelt, State to Halsted, was sold off later and there is a longstanding legend that it was not properly recorded in some way, so that adjacent landowners do have a property interest of some kind in the streets, with the public only having an easement to use them. Supposedly this allowed First National Bank to build the skyway to Three First National Plaza circa 1980 without payment to the city—and to consider the tellers in the new building to not be a branch bank (forbidden at the time in Illinois).
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Old 01-20-2011, 12:17 PM
Quercus Quercus is offline
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Originally Posted by jtgain View Post
I've never understood these ordinances:

1) If the sidewalk is city property, then they need to clean it off. Forcing me to clean their property without pay is tantamount to slavery.

2) If the sidewalk is my property, then I'll leave ten feet of snow on it if I damn well please. If someone falls on it, then I owe them no duty because they are trespassing on my land. In fact, I will charge everyone a toll who passes by.
Sure. I'll give you that. Now how much would you agree to have your property taxes go up so that the city can hire people to shovel the sidewalk in front of every house in the city?
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Old 01-20-2011, 02:40 PM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
Can you elaborate?

The original townsite of Chicago, north of Madison and west of State, was platted and sold by the Canal Commissioners. Merely by terms of the recorded dimensions, I don't believe the lots they sold extended into or under the platted streets regardless of whether a Plat Act was in effect.

The School Section, from Madison to Roosevelt, State to Halsted, was sold off later and there is a longstanding legend that it was not properly recorded in some way, so that adjacent landowners do have a property interest of some kind in the streets, with the public only having an easement to use them. Supposedly this allowed First National Bank to build the skyway to Three First National Plaza circa 1980 without payment to the city—and to consider the tellers in the new building to not be a branch bank (forbidden at the time in Illinois).
Banks and other buildings on several downtown streets, including Clark, Dearborn, and Monroe, have underground vaults under the streets. Once the OT of Chicago was laid out by the Canal Commissioners, the lots would have been conveyed by a legal description containing the lot number and block number in the OT of Chicago. They would not have been sold by a metes and bounds description. Usually deeds contain the lot number, together with all interest in appurtenances thereunto belonging, and often with verbiage including all interest in the streets. I don't have access to the Cook County records any more, and a Google search came up empty. The Plat Act wasn't, of course, enacted yet. So under the common law, the buyer of the lot obtained title to his portion of abutting street(s).
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Old 01-21-2011, 08:26 AM
jtgain jtgain is offline
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Originally Posted by Whack-a-Mole View Post
I thought the sidewalk to your house, while yours, was considered a public access piece of property. For instance, you cannot have the Girl Scouts ringing your doorbell to sell you cookies charged with trespassing. They are legally allowed to be there (you can ask them to leave of course and they have to but just using your sidewalk to your front door is not trespass).

As such that sidewalk is your responsibility and if someone slips and falls while making proper use of the sidewalk (say the mail delivery person) and gets hurt because you neglected to clear it you may find yourself getting sued.
I'm confused. If we are talking about the sidewalk that runs directly from the street, across your yard, to your front door, then I tend to agree with you. However, the open and obvious nature of the snow mentioned above should put a reasonably prudent person on notice that he should take care walking to my door, so liability would be sketchy.

If we are talking about the sidewalk that runs parallel to the street that pedestrians use, then I stand by my statement.
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Old 01-21-2011, 04:43 PM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
Can you elaborate?

The original townsite of Chicago, north of Madison and west of State, was platted and sold by the Canal Commissioners. Merely by terms of the recorded dimensions, I don't believe the lots they sold extended into or under the platted streets regardless of whether a Plat Act was in effect.

The School Section, from Madison to Roosevelt, State to Halsted, was sold off later and there is a longstanding legend that it was not properly recorded in some way, so that adjacent landowners do have a property interest of some kind in the streets, with the public only having an easement to use them. Supposedly this allowed First National Bank to build the skyway to Three First National Plaza circa 1980 without payment to the city—and to consider the tellers in the new building to not be a branch bank (forbidden at the time in Illinois).
I didn't intend on commenting further, but a recent post brought me to this thread again. I don't understand "a longstanding legend that it was not properly recorded in some way." The "school sections" in townships are sections 16. They were designated as school sections by the law providing for the surveying of those lands. Nothing had to be recorded. I don't know what you refer to by "it." Deeds conveying portions of the section were either recorded or not recorded. There is no "proper" way to record deeds. The skyways in downtown Chicago were built over streets owned by the adjoining lot owners. Since they have fee simple in the streets, they also have fee simple in the air rights, subject, of course, to the rights of the public for ingress and egress.
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Old 01-21-2011, 08:55 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is online now
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The School Section (of T39 R14) was platted in the fall of 1833 (the Plat Act dates from Feb. 1833), and the legend is that the plat was somehow not properly recorded. Thus, landowners in the school section—and only in the School Section—supposedly have title to the streets.

I have never heard of any question being raised about city ownership of the streets in the original townsite (Section 9) or of later additions. All I know is in this 1981 Chicago Tribune story.
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Old 01-22-2011, 06:29 AM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
The School Section (of T39 R14) was platted in the fall of 1833 (the Plat Act dates from Feb. 1833), and the legend is that the plat was somehow not properly recorded. Thus, landowners in the school section—and only in the School Section—supposedly have title to the streets.

I have never heard of any question being raised about city ownership of the streets in the original townsite (Section 9) or of later additions. All I know is in this 1981 Chicago Tribune story.
Clicking on your link, I get the message: "Oops! Server could not be found." Anyway, I once looked at the plat of the OT of Chicago, and it did not appear to conform to the Plat Act. It was a very basic plat and did not appear to have all the necessary seals, such as the County's seal.
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Old 01-22-2011, 07:37 AM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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Icy Sidewalks: Who is responsible?
Jack Frost!

He's responsible!

Let's string thet thar mythological owlhoot up, buckaroos!

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Old 01-22-2011, 09:45 AM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is online now
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Originally Posted by barbitu8 View Post
Clicking on your link, I get the message: "Oops! Server could not be found."
Maybe try again. It works fine for me (brings up a PDF).

Quote:
Anyway, I once looked at the plat of the OT of Chicago, and it did not appear to conform to the Plat Act. It was a very basic plat and did not appear to have all the necessary seals, such as the County's seal.
How would you know? The original plat was destroyed in the big weenie roast of 1871.

The one floating around on the web is a facsimile made for printing, which of course wouldn't even be in (surveyor) James Thompson's handwriting, much less have the various seals and signatures.

Also, I'm not sure why the 1833 Plat Act would be especially relevant to the 1830 plat of Chicago.

Last edited by Mr Downtown; 01-22-2011 at 09:46 AM..
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Old 01-22-2011, 03:22 PM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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I got your link to work, and it shows that the city does not own the streets. Your link said that because the plat was defective, the adjoining owners did and did not have to pay rental to the city for their skyways. It further mentioned underground vaults.

The town of Chicago was incorporated in August, 1833. I don'[t recall if the plat was dated in 1830. The Plat Act was enacted in Feb, 1833, but that doesn't matter since the plat was defective and title to the streets, in any event, belongs to the owners. Exactly what I've been saying.

BTW, I didn't see the plat of the OT of Chicago on the web. I saw a letter pressing of it, which, of course, reproduced it exactly. Chicago Title and Trust made pressings of all instruments recorded in Cook Co., and kept them in binders. In fact, after the Great Fire, the county had to go to CT&T Co. to get reproductions of all the recorded instruments.
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Old 01-22-2011, 04:12 PM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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My error. All the property mentioned was south of Madison street, in the school section, and the school section plat was defective because a school official did not sign it. Nonetheless, I believe the OT plat was not in compliance with the Plat Act. It did mention the loop, which extends north of Madison street (to Lake street).

It appears I was commingling some of the school section with the OT. However, you said that the OT was platted in 1830 and that the Plat Act was enacted in 1833. So, the streets in the OT would also belong to the adjoining owners.
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Old 01-22-2011, 04:24 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is online now
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The Tribune article suggests this situation (ownership of streets by the abutters) only applies to the School Section. You keep saying it also applies to the OT in Section 9, and I've never heard any evidence of this. So far as I know, the city collects substantial rent for skyways, overhanging signs, awnings, and underground vaults in the OT, and this has never been questioned.

Nor do I see how the Plat Act of 1833, with its strict rules of construction, would apply to a plat filed in 1830. Surely there were mechanisms for the dedication and acceptance of public ways in Illinois prior to 1833.

Last edited by Mr Downtown; 01-22-2011 at 04:28 PM..
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  #36  
Old 01-22-2011, 04:25 PM
mhendo mhendo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Telemark View Post
In my Boston-area town the home or building owners are responsible in most places. There are some exceptions where the city will plow the sidewalks, but not many. Alas, enforcement is very lax, as opposed to the parking enforcement.
It seems that, at least recently, Boston itself has become rather more strict. I remembered this story, which i read a few weeks ago, after the big blizzard hit the northeast:
Quote:
This month’s blizzard has brought a flurry of tickets, 173 yesterday alone, compared with 20 issued in all of December 2009. And officers are out today looking for more violators.

<snip>

Officer Daniel Donovan, on patrol yesterday, issued a $50 ticket to the owner of a boarded-up triple-decker on Telegraph Hill who had not shoveled the sidewalk along his corner lot. City ordinances require residents to shovel their walkways within six hours after a snowfall and specify in nitty-gritty detail that the path cleared be no less than 42 inches wide.

<snip>

Soon enough, the officer pounced again. A young couple was shoveling snow off their Honda, badly. Donovan approached and demanded their license and registration. The couple, who did not want to be identified, froze in shock. They wanted to know what they had done wrong. They said they had no idea about the law. The woman began crying.

Donovan replied coolly that they should have stacked the snow at the front or back end of the car, not in the street. “It’s illegal to throw snow in a city street,’’ he said before handing them a $50 ticket. A block away, he ticketed another man for the same offense.
That's some pretty hardcore enforcement there.

Last edited by mhendo; 01-22-2011 at 04:25 PM..
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Old 01-22-2011, 04:36 PM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
The Tribune article suggests this situation (ownership of streets by the abutters) only applies to the School Section. You keep saying it also applies to the OT in Section 9, and I've never heard any evidence of this. So far as I know, the city collects substantial rent for skyways, overhanging signs, awnings, and underground vaults in the OT, and this has never been questioned.

Nor do I see how the Plat Act of 1833, with its strict rules of construction, would apply to a plat filed in 1830. Surely there were mechanisms for the dedication and acceptance of public ways in Illinois prior to 1833.
Yes, dedication of public ways occurred prior to 1833, and they occur to this day. Owners of lots often dedicate a private road for a public road so they won't have to be responsible for it and won't have to pay taxes for it. But those plats of dedication don't comply with the Plat Act and fee simple remains in the dedicators. Upon vacation (or abandonment), they would (or their successors or assigns) have the fee simple with no easement.

So, if the plat was recorded in 1830, title to the streets would be in the adjoining owners (under the common law.) Perhaps somebody should question all the rents being paid to the city. (I think, however, estoppel or laches would now apply, considering all the years nobody questioned it.)
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Old 01-22-2011, 06:00 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is online now
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OK, found the citation. The Illinois Supreme Court, in City of Chicago v. Rumsey, 87 Ill. 348 (1877), apparently decided that the city had fee simple ownership of streets in the original townsite, based on the intent of the state government/canal commission to convey only the lots and to dedicate the streets to the public.

I don’t find that decision online, so I can’t easily read it until Monday, but the 1910 decisions regarding street ownership in the various parts of downtown Chicago are at 93 N.E. 153-169. The most relevant discussion is on p. 164.

Last edited by Mr Downtown; 01-22-2011 at 06:02 PM..
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Old 01-23-2011, 05:20 AM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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Thanks. I don't have time to read the case now. I just skimmed it. I have to run, literally. I meet the ladies I run with at seven.
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Old 01-23-2011, 11:42 AM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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I find it strange that the court held that plats made by the canal commissioners (being an arm of the state) have the same effect as statutory plats, but that plats made by the school commissioners (also being an arm of the state) do not. I know that the school plat was not only not in compliance with the Plat Act but was defective, not being signed by a commissioner (as well as not naming the streets, which doesn't appear vital). Even so, although defective the policy is that title shall vest in the public when the plats are made by the state. This would imply that the plat was a nullity, as if never made. However, the court said that the plat was defective, not a nullity. The canal commissioners plats were also defective: not having the county surveyor's seal and other defects. I guess there are degrees of defectiveness.
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Old 01-23-2011, 02:28 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is online now
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Yes, reading between the lines in the 1910 cases, one sees a little exasperation with the logic of the Rumsey court. In Ryerson, 93 N.E. at 165, the court kind of sighs: "The Rumsey Case . . . has become a rule of property, which has been relied on for many years, and which we should not now disregard."

Meanwhile in the Sears case, 93 N.E. at 162, the same court says that “title of the abutting lot owners . . . in the School Section . . .had become vested to the center of the streets,” so any statute saying otherwise would be a taking. Interestingly (to me), this is the same court that only a few years earlier had ruled that the General Assembly could not take Montgomery Ward's interest in having Grant Park "forever open, free, and clear"—even by eminent domain.

I suppose the court is more lenient with having the intent shown by the canal commissioners (before there was a Plat Act) modify the common-law rule than with letting the school commissioners ignore the statutory requirements spelled out by the Plat Act passed a few months earlier.
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  #42  
Old 01-23-2011, 05:54 PM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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This has been a most informative thread, thanks to you, Mr Downtown, whoever you are.
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