Court reopens lawsuit against Peoria Park District

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A court case involving a couple who said they were injured while renting a campsite at Camp Wokanda has been reopened by an appellate court.

A panel of 3rd District Appellate Court judges decided to reopen the case and said retired Judge Michael McCuskey erred when he tossed a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs Michael Torres and Jaimie Gibson against Peoria Park District back in 2017.

In the lawsuit, Torres and Gibson said they reserved the campsite for multiple nights and when checking in with an employee of the park district, they said the employee pointed to two poles on each side of the path to the campsite and explained the poles were there for their exclusive use and could be used “for any camping or recreational purpose they so desired.”

The poles were 42 years old, so when the couple used them to set up a hammock, one of the poles fell on them and the couple fell to the ground with the hammock.

Court records revealed Torres’s injuries include broken bones, severe spine injuries, the need for future surgery, and scarring, whereas Gibson suffered broken bones and a punctured lung. 

The couple alleged they were injured “due to the willful and wanton conduct of the park district,” the lawsuit read.

In response to the formal complaint, the park district filed a combined motion to dismiss the case stating it was protected under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act.

That act states a governmental body cannot be held liable “for claims based upon a condition of public property intended for recreational use unless the park district was guilty of willful and wanton conduct.” Judge McCuskey agreed with the park district and dismissed the case in 2019.

This brings us to that panel of 3rd District Appellate Court judges, who said McCuskey was wrong for dismissing the case. They said the couple “alleged a set of facts from which, if proven, a
jury could find the park district engaged in willful and wanton conduct that proximately caused [the couple’s injuries.”

This resulted in the judges reversing McCuskey’s judgment in the case, so the case is now remanded for further proceedings.

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