In Bitsky v. City of Chicago, et al., 2023 IL App (1st) 220266, the court reaffirmed its adherence to prior Illinois precedent which allows a contractor to avoid liability for a premises claim where it carefully follows specifications set by the state. In Bitsky, the plaintiff brought claims sounding in premises liability against the City of Chicago (the “City”), a general contractor and multiple subcontractors following a slip and fall on an alleged defective public sidewalk. The City and the general contractor both settled, but the subcontractors all moved for summary judgment on the grounds that they (i) carefully followed plans and specifications set by the City and general contractor; (ii) that the plaintiff failed to show proximate cause between her injuries and the subcontractor’s work; (iii) that the elevated sidewalk was an open and obvious condition; and (iv) that they had no notice of the alleged dangerous condition created by the raised sidewalk. The trial court granted summary judgment because the subcontractors had adhered to specifications set forth by the City and the general contractor. The grant of summary judgment was affirmed on appeal.

Under Illinois law, an independent contractor is not liable for injuries to third persons for injuries where they carefully carry out the specifications provided to them and are justified in relying on said specifications unless they are so obviously dangerous that no competent contractor would follow them. Hunt v. Blasius, 74 Ill. 2d 203 (1978). As such, a contractor can avoid liability for premises liability claims related to their work where detailed plans are provided to them and said plans are followed. The contractor will not, however, rely on the mere acceptance of work by an entity to avoid liability. The contractor can still be held liable where there is no evidence that they were provided with plans and specifications as to how the work was to be carried out.

Public entities should be mindful that contractors may escape liability where they follow exact specifications which can impact cross-claims in multi-party litigation.

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