Illinois Appellate Court Holds That Plaintiff Failed to Prove That Negligence Caused the Damages Claimed; Costello v. City of Chicago

The Illinois Appellate Court has affirmed a ruling by a Cook County Circuit Court judge arising from a class-action suit filed by Ronald Costello who represented the class. He claimed that he and others suffered flooding on their property during August 2001 storms.

The lawsuit arose out of the City of Chicago’s implemented Rainblocker System, a sewer inlet intended to prevent backup from sewers following a heavy rain. The city hired Harza Environmental to develop this project. The same program worked successfully in Evanston, Illinois. Four pilot studies were done in different Chicago neighborhoods by Harza with a variety of levels of flooding. The studies proved successful and the city went ahead with the Rainblocker System.

It was alleged that during August 2001 storms, streets in the city flooded above the curb level because of the incorrect assumptions made by Harza. The lawsuit complained that the city should have done more tests and therefore, was negligent. In December 2005, the lawsuit was certified as a class.

The case dragged on. There were requests for many continuances by the plaintiffs who were not prepared for trial. A new lawyer was brought in to represent the plaintiff class, but discovery was not reopened. Finally at the trial, the plaintiffs presented an expert who opined that the city did not adhere to civil engineering standards because it did not perform an analysis regarding the citywide Rainblocker System.

The plaintiff’s expert did not inspect the representative plaintiff’s property damage. On the other hand, the city’s expert testified that the August 2001 storms would have caused flooding regardless of Rainblocker.

After considering all of the evidence, the trial judge rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the city was in violation of engineering standard of care and found that theory had neither been pleaded nor advanced in the trial. The court found that the city was obliged to an “ordinary care” duty, which the city had not breached.

In addition, the trial judge found that it was reasonable for the commissioner and deputy commissioner of the city to conclude that no further studies were necessary. It found that the plaintiffs had failed to prove proximate cause given the severe rains in 2001.

On appeal, the appellate court agreed with the trial court in applying the negligence ordinary care standard and not the engineering standard of care.

The appellate court went on to state that the plaintiffs did not provide evidence as to Costello’s property in that the plaintiffs’ expert did not inspect that property so he could not give an opinion on its damage. Lastly, the appellate court found that the plaintiffs chose not to account for the severity of the August 2001 storm which produced this same or worse flooding without the system.

Ronald Costello v. City of Chicago, 2012 IL App. (1st) 093342-U (June 15, 2012).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling catastrophic injury cases for individuals and families in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Bartlett, Crete, Des Plaines, Morton Grove, Niles, Elmwood Park, Rogers Park (Chicago), Schaumburg and Tinley Park, Illinois.

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