Abstract

This article is based on case law involving suits by highway users against various highway and street authorities. The article was prompted by damage occurring to Illinois highways during the severe winters of 1976–77, 1977–78 and 1978–79. Discussed are the views which courts in different jurisdictions have taken regarding an actionable defect, the liability of highway authorities for different types of vehicles, and the legal position of various highway and street authorities as defendants. Modern highway usage, coupled with severe recent winters, gives rise to certain types of damage claims which could not have existed in an earlier day. However, the prudence of vehicle operators is still an important factor; and recovery, even for a clear failure on the part of public road authorities to protect highway users, may be barred if there is contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff. The article suggests that current highway usage imposes upon highway authorities a duty not only to make prompt and adequate repair but also to foresee and be knowledgeable about weather-induced damages and the effect such will have on highway users.

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