The Supreme Court of North Dakota recently published an opinion affirming a trial court’s ruling dismissing a personal injury and premises liability claim filed by a plaintiff who was injured when she fell while rollerblading in a city park. The district court had ruled that the plaintiff’s claim was barred by the three-year statute of limitations for negligence lawsuits against government actors in North Dakota.
Initially, the plaintiffs served the defendant with the lawsuit within the statute of limitations, but the service did not meet the procedural requirements set out by state law and was found to be invalid by the courts. The plaintiff’s other arguments on appeal were also rejected by the state supreme court, and they will be unable to recover compensation for the injuries suffered in the fall.
The Plaintiff Suffers a Fall While Rollerblading in the Park
The plaintiffs in the case of Frith v. City of Fargo were a husband and wife who were exercising in a park operated by the defendant on a day in the summer of 2012. The wife was rollerblading on a multi-use pathway when she tripped and lost control after running into a raised bit of soft patching material that had been used to fill a crack in the pathway. According to the facts in the appellate opinion, the woman claimed that she could not see the hazard, and no warning was posted. Nearly three years after the accident, the plaintiffs attempted to serve the defendant with a personal injury and premises liability lawsuit that alleged the defendant was in control of the park’s maintenance and allowed a dangerous hazard to be created on the pathway without cordoning off the area or otherwise giving an appropriate warning.
The Defendant Was Not Properly Served, and the Plaintiffs’ Claim Was Dismissed
The defendants were served with the complaint five days before the expiration of the statute of limitations to sue a state or municipal subdivision or agency in North Dakota. The defendant waited for the limitations period to expire and filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claim by pointing out that they failed to serve the defendant properly in accordance with state law, and the limitations period had since expired, so the court had no jurisdiction to hear the claim.
The district court granted the defendant’s motion, finding that the plaintiffs were not able to serve the defendant with a complaint within the limitations period, and no exceptions applied to extend the limitations period. The plaintiffs’ claim was dismissed with prejudice, forcing them to appeal to the state supreme court for any chance of recovery from their claim.
The Plaintiffs’ Arguments on Appeal Are Rejected
The plaintiffs made several arguments on appeal, all of which were rejected by the high court. First, the plaintiffs argued that a longer statute of limitations should be applied to their claim because a private subcontractor rather than a government employee was alleged to have been negligent in creating the hazard. The court denied the plaintiffs’ request to apply the six-year statute of limitations for private-party negligence to the plaintiffs’ claim. The plaintiffs sued the government agency rather than the subcontractor, so the rules for suing government agencies applied.
The plaintiffs also argued that the statute of limitations should be extended because the defendants were on notice of the claim within the limitations period despite the improper service, or alternatively that the limitations period should not have started running until the plaintiff was made aware that she had a potential cause of action for her injuries. Both of these arguments were rejected by the court, which unanimously upheld the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claim.
Procedural Errors by Pro Se Plaintiffs or Inexperienced Attorneys Can Be Fatal to an Otherwise Valid Case
Since the plaintiffs’ premises liability claim was dismissed before the substance of their claims was addressed, it is unclear if they would have been compensated for the injuries in the event the case went to trial. Unfortunately, it was a failure to abide by clear procedural requirements that resulted in their having no chance of relief. Accident victims may be tempted to handle a case on their own or retain the attorney with the lowest fee, but this may be a poor decision. Some mistakes are irreversible and extinguish a plaintiff’s right to relief. A lower fee means nothing if there is no award through settlement or trial. Accident victims should be sure they retain a qualified and competent attorney to handle their case and prevent an irreversible error from destroying their claim for relief.
South Florida Negligence Attorneys You Can Trust
If you or a family member has been injured by a dangerous condition on public or private property in South Florida, you may have a claim for relief. Hiring a competent attorney whom you can trust is an important step in seeking the compensation that you deserve. The dedicated and experienced South Florida negligence attorneys at the law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank will handle your case with the utmost diligence and care to ensure that no mistake thwarts your claim for relief. The consultations at Friedman, Rodman & Frank are free, and we don’t get paid unless and until you do. Contact us to discuss your case with an experienced attorney. Call 877-448-8585 or complete our easy online form.
More Blog Posts:
State Supreme Court Refuses to Enforce Arbitration Clause Against Young Injury Victim, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published November 3, 2016.
Court Sides with Plaintiff, Reversing Judgment for Defendant in Slip-and-Fall Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published November 17, 2016.