Bicyclist sues city over pothole injuries; appellate court rules no duty owed

In a significant ruling, the Appellate Court of Illinois upheld a lower court’s decision, denying a negligence claim against the City of Chicago. The case, filed by Laundia Foster Jr., was heard in the Circuit Court of Cook County on March 20, 2020, and involved allegations that the city failed to maintain a safe roadway, leading to severe injuries for Foster.

On April 3, 2019, Laundia Foster Jr. was riding his bicycle eastbound on Marquette Road when he encountered a pothole after maneuvering around a parked vehicle obstructing the bike lane. This incident resulted in severe injuries, including multiple surgeries and partial amputation above the knee. Foster’s complaint sought $50,000 in damages from the City of Chicago for negligence. However, on July 3, 2023, the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the city and dismissed Foster’s complaint with prejudice.

The crux of Foster’s argument hinged on whether he was an intended user of the roadway at the time of his accident. He contended that because he had to leave the bike lane due to an obstruction (a parked vehicle), he should be considered an intended user of that part of the road. David Smith from the Chicago Department of Transportation testified that bicyclists are permitted to use roadways or parkways when bike lanes are obstructed. However, this did not establish that bicyclists were intended users of those roadways.

The court noted that under Illinois law and municipal codes, a duty of care is owed only to those who are both permitted and intended users of public property. Despite being permitted to temporarily use the roadway to avoid obstacles in bike lanes, Foster was not deemed an intended user by legal standards since there were no signs or markings indicating such intent by the city.

Foster’s appeal cited precedents like Curatola v. Village of Niles but failed to convince the court that his situation warranted similar consideration. The court found that alternative actions were available to him—such as walking his bicycle around the obstacle—which negated any exceptional circumstances argument.

Ultimately, Justices Lampkin, Reyes, and Walker concurred in affirming that no genuine issue existed regarding whether Foster was an intended user at the time of his accident; thus, no duty of care was owed by the City under relevant tort immunity laws.

The case underscores important distinctions in liability claims involving public entities and sets precedent for how “intended use” is interpreted within Illinois jurisdiction.

This article was first published in Cook County Record.

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