North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Denial of Premises Liability Claim Against Department of Transportation Involving Uncovered Manhole

park grateNegligence claims can be complex, especially when they involve government entities. If you are bringing a North Carolina personal injury lawsuit against a government entity seeking compensation for your injuries, there are specific rules and procedures that you must follow that are different from bringing the same claim against a private individual or business. At Maurer Law, we have handled numerous government torts and are prepared to help you ensure that you assert your rights to the fullest extent.

The North Carolina appellate court recently considered a dispute involving the Tort Claims Act. The plaintiff was injured after she deviated from a crosswalk and cut across a grass median at which point she stepped into an uncovered storm drain and fell five feet underground. The plaintiff’s husband dropped her off to go jogging and returned later to pick her up. The plaintiff admitted that she deviated from the crosswalk when she saw her husband’s vehicle approaching.

She brought a claim against the North Carolina Department of Transportation pursuant to the Tort Claims Act and filed it with the Industrial Commission. She alleged that DOT negligently failed to inspect and maintain the drain because the cover that would have been on top of the hole was lying a few feet away.

The Commission initially denied the claim in part, finding that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent when she left the designated pedestrian crosswalk and traversed the grass-covered median without keeping an eye out. According to the court, the hole was visible to anyone keeping a proper lookout. Also, it determined that her decision against using the designated pathway, along with her failure to keep a lookout, were the ultimate causes of her injuries.

The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the Commission committed reversible errors in deciding that DOT did not owe her a duty of care regarding maintenance of the drain, that it did not breach any duty owed to her, and that her claim was precluded due to her contributory negligence. The appellate court upheld the lower court’s denial of the plaintiff’s claim, finding ample evidence in the record to support its decision that the plaintiff’s failure to keep a lookout and failure to use the designated crosswalk were the proximate causes of her injuries. The plaintiff testified that she did not look where she was walking as she crossed the median because she was looking at her husband’s vehicle, for example. It also concluded that the DOT’s conduct had no part in her injuries.

If you suffered personal injuries in a slip and fall or premises liability accident and believe that a government entity may be liable, it is critical that you speak to a seasoned North Carolina personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Our dedicated team of attorneys has handled numerous Tort Claims Act matters, which means we understand the steps that you must take to preserve your rights. We offer a free consultation to help you learn more about your situation and whether we can assist you. Call us now at 1-844-817-8058 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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