Legal Memorandum: Landowner's Duty to Warn of a Dangerous Condition

Issue: Under Illinois law, what is the landowner’s duty to warn in cases involving an injured child or adult?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Duties of a landowner; Duty to warn of a dangerous condition; Injured child or adult
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: 560 N.E.2d 1099; 388 N.E.2d 932; 504 N.E.2d 263; 523 N.E.2d 643; 548 N.E.2d 346; 379 N.E.2d 1376; 522 N.E.2d 343; 919 F.2d 143; 464 N.E.2d 644; 442 F. Supp. 555; 472 N.E.2d 1203; 511 N.E.2d 426; 126 N.E.2d 836; 565 N.E.2d 654; 207 N.E.2d 320; 554 N.E.2d 223; 570 N.E.2d 828; 290 N.E.2d 276; 431 N.E.2d 1218; 412 N.E.2d 447; 464 N.E.2d 1023; 417 N.E.2d 679; 262 N.E.2d 107
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) of Torts § 339; Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343
Date: 04/01/2001

           In the landmark case Kahn v. James Burton Co., 5 Ill. 2d 614, 126 N.E.2d 836 (1955), the Illinois Supreme Court discarded the attractive nuisance doctrine and held that ordinary negligence principles would henceforth apply in premises liability cases involving children.  Foreseeability of harm to the child is thus the touchstone of liability in such cases.  Id., 5 Ill. 2d at 625.  See also Cope v. Doe, 102 Ill. 2d 278, 285, 464 N.E.2d 1023 (1984) ("The significance of [Cope] is that it discarded the notion that the dangerous condition had to lure children onto the premises, and it established the rule that foreseeability of harm to the child is the test for liability.").  According to Kahn and its numerous prodigy, while a landowner or occupier owes no duty to take special precautions for the safety of children,

an exception exists where the owner or person in possession knows, or should know, that young children habitually frequent the vicinity of a defective structure or dangerous agency existing on the land, which is likely to cause injury to them because they, by reason of their immaturity, are incapable of appreciating the risk involved, and where the expense or inconvenience of remedying the condition is slight compared to the risk to the children.  In such cases there is a duty […]

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