The Michigan Supreme Court recently released a decision reversing a lower appellate decision in favor of the governmental defendants in a negligence case filed by a woman who was injured while she was crossing a public highway operated by the defendants. The plaintiff’s claim that the defendant had been negligent in failing to maintain the highway in reasonable repair in order to be safe for public travel was rejected by the lower courts, who found as a matter of law that the highway was reasonably safe. The state supreme court reversed, ruling that the plaintiff had raised a genuine issue of fact as to whether the highway was unsafe, and her claim should have been heard by a jury.
The Plaintiff Is Injured After She Trips Over Uneven Concrete While Crossing a Public Highway
The plaintiff in the case of Kozak v. Lincoln Park is a woman who was injured while crossing a public highway that was operated by the defendant. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the woman tripped over a three-inch height differential between two slabs of concrete in the middle of the road and sustained injuries as a result. The woman filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city, alleging that the city had a duty to maintain the public roads in reasonably safe condition, and the violation of that duty directly resulted in her injuries.
The Trial Court Rules in Favor of the Defendants
Before a trial was held on the plaintiff’s claim, the defendant filed a motion alleging the roadway was safe. In response to the motion, the plaintiff submitted documentary evidence to show that the road was not safe, including evidence that it had been in poor condition for over six years when the accident occurred. The defendant’s motion included the opinion testimony of the city’s Director of Public Services that the roadway was “reasonably safe.” Without considering the plaintiff’s response to the motion, the trial court decided that the roadway was reasonably safe and that the plaintiff did not sufficiently respond to the defendant’s motion, ultimately dismissing the plaintiff’s case.
The Appellate Courts Disagree with the Trial Court
The state appellate court that heard the initial appeal refused to give as much deference to the defendant’s employee’s opinion that the road was safe, and it ruled that the plaintiff’s presentation of the photographic and documentary evidence of the hazardous condition of the roadway was sufficient for her personal injury claim to be heard by a jury. The court ruled that as long as there was a disputed issue of fact concerning the plaintiff’s claim, such as whether the road was reasonably safe at the time of the plaintiff’s fall, it was inappropriate to dispose of the case without a trial. As a result of the recent ruling, the plaintiff may receive compensation for her claim.
State and Municipal Liability for Unsafe Roadways in Florida
Florida law permits citizens to file a cause of action against a municipal or state agency for failing to maintain a roadway or pedestrian thoroughfare in a reasonably safe condition. Although state and municipal bodies are generally immune from liability for torts committed on their behalf, the state code specifically exempts claims related to poorly designed or maintained roadways from the sovereign immunity the government generally maintains. Although government actors are held to the standard of maintaining reasonably safe roadways, it can be more difficult for plaintiffs to prove a negligence case against a state or municipal body when compared to a case against a private party. Anyone injured as a result of a dangerous road condition should consult with a Florida personal injury attorney shortly after their injury to determine the strength of their case.
Should You Contact an Attorney?
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a dangerous road or sidewalk condition, whether on public or private property, the experienced South Florida negligence attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank may be able to help. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, our dedicated advocates take pride in holding negligent property owners accountable for the injuries they cause, and we fight as hard as we can for the compensation that our clients deserve. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we represent clients in the Miami area and throughout South Florida in personal injury, premises liability, and other negligence cases. Contact us to schedule a free consultation and case review. Call toll-free at 877-448-8585 or use our online form to set up a meeting today. Se habla Español / Nou Parlé Creole.
More Blog Posts:
Court Affirms Judgment for Defendant in Case Filed after Fatal Skateboarding Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 30, 2016.
State Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Medical Malpractice Plaintiff’s Attempt to Extend Statute of Limitations, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 15, 2016.