Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Open-and-Obvious Doctrine Unavailable in Elevator Door Case

Robert Greenhill, the plaintiff, was a sprinkler fitter for a construction project when he was injured at work by a freight elevator.

While he was entering the elevator, another passenger pressed the “door close” button and the elevator gate descended, striking Greenhill.

The Illinois First District Appellate Court held that the open-and-obvious doctrine was not available to the defendants, including REIT Management & Research LLC, Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corp., and the building manager, CW 600 W. Chicago LLC, because the risk of entering the elevator would not have been apparent to a reasonable person in the view of Greenhill.

The parties disputed whether the elevator was equipped with a sensor or had a functioning audible warning.

However, assuming the elevator was fully functional, other facts barred the open-and-obvious defense.

Greenhill did not observe the other passenger pressing the “door close” button, and thus, a reasonable person in Greenhill’s position would not have been able to appreciate the risk of being hit by the gate.

The appeals panel held as a matter of law that the Circuit Court of Cook County erred in determining that the open-and-obvious doctrine was an available defense to the building manager.

The open-and-obvious defense was also unavailable to the elevator company because it cannot be considered a landowner and consequently cannot avail itself of arguments based on premise liability.

Accordingly, for the reasons stated, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of REIT Management and remanded the case for further proceedings and affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of another party, the third-party defendant FMS Liquidating Inc., f/k/a Superior Mechanical Systems Inc., which was Greenhill’s employer.  Superior was also the subcontractor on the construction project.

Greenhill v. REIT Management & Research, LLC, 2019 IL App (1st) 181164.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling construction injury lawsuits, work injury cases, catastrophic injury lawsuits and traumatic brain injury cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including LaGrange, Western Springs, Cicero, Joliet, Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Villa Park, Franklin Park, Elmwood Park, River Forest, Rosemont, Winnetka, Glenview, Northfield, Arlington Heights, Hoffman Estates, Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Skokie, Lincolnwood, Chicago (Ravenswood Manor, Roscoe Village, Bucktown, Old Town, Ukrainian Village, Humboldt Park, West Garfield Park, Little Italy, Armour Square, Douglas, Oakland, Kenwood, Fuller Park, Englewood, South Shore, Avalon Park, Chatham, Calumet Heights, Pullman, Pilsen), Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park, Country Club Hills, Hazel Crest, Oak Forest, Tinley Park, Orland Park, Palos Heights, Crestwood and Forest Park, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

Related blog posts:

$2 Million Jury Verdict for Spinal Injury Caused by Negligent Elevator Maintenance

Jury Verdict for $2.81 Million for Crush Injuries Caused by Negligent Operation of Hydraulic Lift

Tort Immunity Prevents Injured Elevator Serviceman from Recovering for Injuries