One North LaSalle, Suite 1000 • Chicago, IL 60602


Does the City of Chicago have a Duty to Inspect its Property?

The City of Chicago is vast, and stretches approximately 234 square miles.  Although this area is indeed vast, the City of Chicago still DOES have a duty to inspect and maintain its property, which includes streets and sidewalks, so that the public ways are free from unreasonably dangerous and defective conditions.

For this reason, the Illinois legislative branch has codified the City’s duty to inspect and maintain its public property.  That duty is specified in Illinois Statute 745 ILCS 10/3-102.  In part, section 3-102 provides that “a local public entity has the duty to exercise ordinary care to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition for the use in the exercise of ordinary care of people whom the entity intended and permitted to use the property in a manner in which and at such times as it was reasonably foreseeable that it would be used, and shall not be liable for injury unless it is proven that it has actual or constructive notice of the existence of such a condition that is not reasonably safe in reasonably adequate time prior to an injury to have taken measures to remedy or protect against such condition.”  Subsection (b)(1) of section 3-102 states that no liability will attach if “the existence of the condition and its character of not being reasonably safe would not have been discovered by an inspection system that was reasonably adequate considering the practicability and cost of inspection weighed against the likelihood and magnitude of the potential danger to which failure to inspect would give rise to inform the public entity whether the property was safe for the use or uses for which the public entity used or intended others to use the public property and for uses that the public entity actually knew others were making of the public property or adjacent property.”

The City commonly argues that it is unreasonable for the public to demand that the City check for hazardous conditions upon public ways.  Indeed, it often argues that the burden and cost of such an undertaking would be too great when compared to the likelihood and magnitude of the potential danger.  Instead, the City would like to push its duty to inspect onto the public by and through its “311” system.  When a citizen complains to the City that a potentially dangerous condition exists–via phone call, in person communication, letter, etc.–the City (arguably) then has knowledge that a potential defect exists, and duty to remedy that defect may arise.  In other words, the City apparently contends that a “reasonably adequate inspection system” is one in which the City does no inspection; rather, its citizens should be tasked with that burden. And this is unreasonable.

But for now, for the protection of yourself, your neighbors, friends and family, should you encounter a dangerous condition upon a sidewalk, road, or other public way, notify the City before someone gets hurt.  Because in the event that someone is injured as a result of the condition you encountered, the injured party may not have a case against the City only because you failed to make a phone call.


— David H. Latarski