The Law School Authority

O’Callaghan v. Waller and Beckwith Realty Co. Case Brief

Summary of O’Callaghan v. Waller & Beckwith Realty Co.
Supreme Court of Illinois, 1958.

Facts: Mrs. O’Callaghan was injured when she was walking from the garage to her apartment and she sued her landlord for negligence.  Mrs. O’Callaghan died and her administrator was substituted as plaintiff.

Procedure: The jury returned a verdict for P in the amount of $14,000.  D appealed and the Court of Appeals held that the exculpatory clause in the lease that Mrs. O signed barred her from suing the D for negligence.

Issue: Was the exculpatory clause in the lease valid?

Holding: Yes

Rule: In Jackson v. First National Bank, the Supreme Court of Illinois held that exculpatory clause in a lease of property or business purposes are enforceable unless: 1. it would be against the settled public policy of the State to do so, or 2. there is something in the social relationship of the parties militating against upholding the agreement.

Rationale: Ct. looked at other jurisdictions and concluded that clauses that exculpate the landlord from the consequences of his negligence have been sustained in residential as well as commercial leases.  Furthermore, such contracts benefit a tenant as well as the landlord.  As far as P’s argument that since there was a shortage of housing, there was a disparity of bargaining power between the lessors of residential property and their lessees, the court ruled that there was no evidence that Mrs. O’Callaghan tried to bargain on this exculpatory clause of the K.  Furthermore, the P is trying the take the court into the area that is the concern of the legislature and not the court. Judgment affirmed.

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