A defective sidewalk was reportedly to blame for injuries suffered by a California man who encountered an uneven slab that launched him some 30 feet from his bicycle.
Now, according to the San Diego Union Tribune, city leaders have agreed to settle his personal injury claim for nearly $5 million. That’s a substantial sum considering previous defective sidewalk claims against the city have ranged in payouts between $75,000 and $235,000. The severity of injuries the man suffered as a result of the bicycle accident no doubt played a significant part in the city’s decision to settle, rather than take their chances at trial. The last time the city gambled on a trial involving a case of poor maintenance of city property (in that case, it was a dead tree), jurors awarded the victim, who was paralyzed, a $7.6 million verdict.
City officials originally called plaintiff’s injuries “minor” and “trivial.” Apparently after more closely reviewing the evidence, they had second thoughts of that characterization.
In reality, the injuries plaintiff suffered were extensive. After he struck the raised curb on his bicycle, he was sent soaring 28 feet, landing on his head on a concrete surface. He was immediately transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where he stayed for a full month. He was then transferred to a nursing home, where he stayed for two more months. He was then allowed to return home, but only after securing around-the-clock home health care for assistance with basic needs.
Initially, the city asserted that the danger of the sidewalk’s condition would have been open and obvious to anyone using due care. However, plaintiff’s attorney presented evidence that the city had been aware of the sidewalk defect for at least several weeks, if not months.
Plaintiff at first filed litigation against both the city and the person whose property is adjacent to the defective sidewalk. However, a judge later granted summary judgment to the adjacent property owner, noting sidewalk maintenance was solely within the purview of the city.
City leaders sought to introduce into evidence at trial plaintiff’s history of mental illness as well as alleged substance abuse. Trial judge nixed the former, but was prepared to allow evidence of the latter, insofar as it related to this particular bicycle accident. Although the city did not have the opportunity to present that evidence at trial, it suggests the damage award may have been even higher were it not for that element.
Now, a spokesman for the city attorney says the size of the settlement was appropriate considering plaintiff’s substantial medical bills, as well as his need for future care and the possibility he won’t be able to work again.
It should be noted that in Florida, just because you trip or fall or are otherwise injured on a sidewalk doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be entitled to compensation. In order to prevail on a claim, plaintiff has to prove the fall was caused by some defect, and further that the entity had ample notice of that defect and failed to take action to fix the sidewalk or warn people about it within a reasonable period of time.
Injuries resulting from unsafe sidewalk conditions or defective sidewalks are often covered by the general liability insurance of the local government entity or business or by the homeowner insurance policy of an adjacent property owner, who in some cases may share liability.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
San Diego paying $4.85M to cyclist injured by damaged sidewalk, March 1, 2017, By David Garrick, San Diego Union Tribune
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Broward Teen Run Over By City Bus Settles County Lawsuit for $850,000, Feb. 16, 2017, Bicycle Accident Attorney Blog