Illinois Appelate Court Ruling on Code

Does anyone remember the big porch collapse in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago in 2003?

Well, the Illinois Supreme Court has finally ruled on the merit of civil lawsuits against the City for not enforcing the building code and the city’s liability. People were using the City because they claimed that the City was negligent in their inspection of the porch.

The ruling states that cities and local code officials cannot be held liable for deaths or damages of private property because that property was not in complience with the local building codes.

"**CHICAGO – **The city of Chicago will not be held liable for damages in dozens of lawsuits filed after a porch collapsed in Lincoln Park in 2003, according to an Illinois Appellate Court ruling released Wednesday.

The ruling stems from 38 lawsuits filed on behalf of people killed and injured when a porch collapsed during a party at 713 W. Wrightwood. Thirteen people were killed in the collapse, which happened June 29, 2003.

The city was sued for negligent inspection of the porch, according to a release by the city’s law department.

“While we certainly do not condone the city’s behavior related to the inspection of the subject porch, [the city] did not owe the individual plaintiffs a duty to protect them against its collapse,” Judge Alan Greiman wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.

The court rejected plaintiff’s assertions that the city was liable for the injuries, which happened on private property.

The court held that while the law requires that owners of private property adhere to certain duties with respect to the safety of their property, the law does not require a municipality to ensure that private property is safe, according to the release.

The defendants plan to file an appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs also sued L.G. Properties Co., the owner of the building where the collapse happened, as well as the people who constructed the porch. Wednesday’s ruling does not affect those other lawsuits."

BTW: Watch for the new problem to be roof decks. Builders are putting wooden roof decks on flat roofs all the time around here. Those I have seen sumply have the joists resting directly on the modified bituman roof. No structural engineer sign off and the roof covering manufacturer doesn’t allow this. I have seen many where the roof starts leaking in a year ot two and 2 cases where the deck has gone down into the condo unit below. No one hurt, that I know of, so far. The deck is not in the plans but just added by the builder as a buyer’s incentive.

Great example for explaining why “passed inspection” <> “safe” or “correct”.

So explain to me why I would need to pay the city for a permit or even have a code inspection if the city is not responsible for making sure the work was done correctly & safely???

If they have no liability, why should I pay them for anything?

We inspect realestate but, did not build the structure, just like the city… So why do we have any liability?

Just Venting!!!

That article can be used well in each inspectors marketing efforts on a flyer or website page titled; why should you have a new home inspected? :wink:

Because we aren’t civil service employees with a corrupt court system backing us. This ruling has real problems and should have been reversed by the IL Supreme Court. They have basically created an untenable condition where you must have a permit and code inspections, but there is no protection from the city’s negligence. Also look for people to be so outraged that the legislature may step in and ‘fix’ this.

Looks like Illinois inspectors (code inspectors, home inspectors, etc) are little more than a means for revenue. Nothing is being enforced, apparently.

I’ll bet there are survivors of 23 deceased victims of a collapsed deck who will agree with me…and the Illinois Supreme Court…that licensing solves nothing.

Because this involves deaths, expect it to reach the US Supreme Court.

The purpose of the building code, and a requirement for a municipality to inspect to is, goes DIRECTLY to ensuring a minimum safety standard.

If the deck was constructed to those standards, the city is not liable. If it was not, and there was a muncipal inspection, the city will be found liable. It is fraud (as a fee was charged), and is a fine example of GROSS NEGLIGENCE. The city masy be forced to indemnify the inspector, but somene will pay.

Ths one will not likely go away.

If it were a PE who performed the inspection (as they are allowed to do under State law), and signed off on a defective structure, they would be sued, fined, and jailed.

The same standard will be applied, I suspect.

Know the feeling.

I was interviewed, this morning on a local radio station and explained all of this. This is nothing new. Local municipalities rarely are held liable. There is a general immunity clause in the law. The city can only be held liable of the plaintifs can prove gross negligence and an intent to not inspect properly.

The radio hosts were shocked to hear that, in Illinois, only Roofers and Plumbers are state licensed. They were also shocked to hear that there is no state licensing for GCs and no tests or qualifications for GC licening (in municipalities) and all that is usually reauired is a GL insurance policy (not E&O!)

To be fair, in my town there has been a 320% increase in new construction, over the last few years, but no matching 350% increase in the budget of the local building dept.

And, people will usually hire the cheaper, non-qualified contractors, then be the first to B*tch about a bad job.

You get what you pay for, always.

Good point, Joe.

The ledger board in the porch collapse was just lagged into lead sinkers in the mortar joints. This is believed to have been a contributing (AT LEAST!) factor to the problem.

Should have been threader rods going through the brick and plated.

Side-note, but related

Before becoming a HI, I worked for a company that served a small but growing niche. We did maintenance (and safety inspections) on gymnasium equipment- wrestlimg mat hoists, gym curtains, movable basketball backstops, etc. I was shocked at the safety hazards that exist with some of this under-maintained equipment and the potential for serious injuries. I was told by fellow workers that after seeing the condition of some of this equipment, you would never sit in the bleachers below a backstop again. He was right.

Due to more awareness of the safety hazards presented by this equipment, and the need for regular maintenance and safety inspections, (and the fear of costly lawsuits) the situation seems to be improving.

However, I was also surprised that much of the work done in these “public” or government schools was done under the radar of any municipal or ‘government’ inspectors. Much electrical work, structural alteration, etc. is done by the on-site person, whether a custodian, maintenance man, or whatever title has been deemed appropriate (with no permits or inspection being involved).

It seems that being a government entity somehow unofficially (?) entitles them to the right to autonomy. I had expected that being a government entity would hold them to a higher standard, or level of accountability.

Bill, don’t be surprised, government routinly exempts itself from rules and regulations that we, the great unwashed, must obey upon pain of financial ruin and/or jailtime. I have long argued this, especially with legal types, that the principle of sovereign immunity in English common law is a principle that we rejected when overthrew English rule. The very essence of being an American is that government derives its power from the consent of the people and is answerable to us. The problem is that after the revolution, our forefathers didn’t put ironclad rules into place, and now we have he problem of out of control government at every level. They really think they are above us and it really chafes them that they have to come to us, hat in hand, and ask for our votes. Look at the recent statements by Trent Lott and others after the immigration bill was defeated. The best example is Social Security, an illegal Ponzi scheme for us to implement, but legal for govt., and they don’t even have to pay us when we retire if they don’t want to, so says the US Supreme Court!