Who Is Liable for a Child Injured While Attempting to Jump Onto a Moving Train ?

In LaSalle National Bank v. City of Chicago, 132 Ill. App. 3d 607, 478 N.E.2d 417, 88 Ill. Dec. 102 (1985), a minor child was injured while attempting to jump onto a moving train that was traveling on railroad tracks owned by Conrail. The minor gained access to the track area by climbing through a hole in a fence owned and maintained by the City of Chicago. The fence, which had been erected pursuant to an agreement between the City and Conrail's predecessor, was situated on the site of a public elementary school, and separated the school premises from the railroad's tracks. An engineering firm hired to conduct annual inspections of the property advised the City of the fence's defects and repeatedly recommended to the City that the hole be repaired. LaSalle National Bank, as the minor's representative, brought suit against Conrail and the City alleging negligence. On appeal from a jury verdict in favor of the minor, the City argued it owned no duty of care as an adjacent landowner, and specifically contended that the principles enunciated in Kahn regarding the degree of care owed children by creators of dangerous conditions upon land were inapplicable because the minor was not injured on city property, but on adjoining property owned by Conrail. The appellate court rejected the City's contention, holding that the "City could properly be found to have 'created' or contributed to a hazardous condition even though the City did not own the property upon which the dangerous instrumentality was located." LaSalle, 132 Ill. App. 3d at 613, 478 N.E.2d at 421. In support of its holding, the court stressed that the City had a contractual duty to maintain the fence on its property, that the City had allowed the fence to remain in disrepair for a lengthy period of time prior to the accident, and that the City had notice of the children's frequent use of the hole to access the tracks. LaSalle, 132 Ill. App. 3d at 613, 478 N.E.2d at 421. On the foregoing basis, the court concluded the City could have been found to have owed a duty of care to protect the minor child from the hazards presented by Conrail's trains. LaSalle, 132 Ill. App. 3d at 615, 478 N.E.2d at 421.