No Barrels, No Tape

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Q: While riding my bicycle on a sidewalk, I fell.  Two months earlier, the Town had excavated a portion of the sidewalk and backfilled it with a temporary patch, cordoning off the area with safety barrels and yellow caution tape.  By the time of my accident, the safety barrels and yellow caution tape were gone.

A: With exceptions, liability for injuries sustained as a result of a dangerous condition on a public sidewalk is placed on the municipality, and not on the owner of the abutting land.  The exceptions are when the landowner actually created the dangerous condition, made negligent repairs that caused the condition, created the dangerous condition through a special use of the sidewalk, or violated a statute or ordinance imposing liability on the landowner for failing to maintain the sidewalk.

Even where a statute or ordinance imposes a duty on a landowner to maintain and repair the abutting sidewalk, the owner will often seek to establish that nevertheless it had no duty to maintain this particular portion of the sidewalk or lacked constructive notice of the condition that caused your accident.

With respect to the Town, quite possibly it has enacted a ‘prior written notice’ law.  Under such a law, the Town may not be subjected to liability for injuries caused by a dangerous condition which comes within the ambit of the law unless it has received prior written notice of the alleged defect or dangerous condition, or an exception to the prior written notice requirement applies.

In general, there are two recognized exceptions to such a law – that the municipality affirmatively created the defect through an act of negligence or that a special use resulted in a special benefit to the locality.  The affirmative-act exception is limited to work by the municipality that immediately results in the existence of a dangerous condition.

Even if the Town did not receive prior written notice of the dangerous condition, your attorney will argue that its work on the sidewalk immediately left it in a condition that was dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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