Algonquin woman fractures ankle at track meet, sues District 155, Diocese of Rockford

CRYSTAL LAKE – An Algonquin woman who said she was permanently injured after she tripped and fell in a foot-deep hole at a local track meet is moving forward with a lawsuit against Community High School District 155 for allowing the property to fall into disarray, according to a lawsuit.

Rose Zaffina filed an amended complaint in the case last week. Her lawsuit, first filed in May, also names the Diocese of Rockford, which is associated with the Catholic school St. Thomas the Apostle that hosted the sporting event at District 155’s Prairie Ridge High School.

On May 7, 2016, Zaffina went to the school at 6000 Dvorak Drive, Crystal Lake, to watch her son compete. While walking down a hill in a field that surrounds the school’s football field and track, Zaffina tripped and fell into a hole that was about a foot deep, the suit states. The fall fractured Zaffina’s ankle, requiring her to get surgery. Now she’s seeking at least $50,000 in damages. The public school district’s attorneys said the school isn’t responsible for the woman’s injuries.

The suit accuses District 155 of neglecting the field and allowing it to become overgrown with grass and weeds that concealed about 15 holes.

“… prior to May 7, 2016, as a result of constant use and degradation from the weather, numerous holes were created throughout the grassy hills,” the suit stated.

Zaffina’s attorney, Martin Gould, could not be reached for comment.

Both District 155 and the Diocese of Rockford have asked McHenry County Judge Thomas Meyer to dismiss the lawsuit.

The district has said school officials aren’t responsible for any injuries that happen on “recreational” property, citing an Illinois law that offers some protections to public property.

Attorney Babak Bakhtiari, who is representing District 155, declined to comment on the pending case.

Representatives from the Diocese of Rockford could not be reached for comment Friday.

Zaffina claims the district, the Catholic school and the Diocese of Rockford knew or should have known about the dangers. The suit claims at least one person was seriously injured after tripping and falling on the hill a year or two before the track meet Zaffina attended and that maintenance crews had reported the hills were “steep” and “dangerous.”

She also accused the district of not having in place any policies to make sure that people visiting the football field area were safe.

The lawsuit accuses District 155 of negligence and willful and wanton conduct. It claims the Catholic school and the Diocese of Rockford also were negligent.

District 155 is required to file a response to Zaffina’s complaint by Feb. 2, according to a judge’s order.

The case is scheduled to resume Feb. 15.

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