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Court Finds Government Immunity Does Not Apply to Negligent Marking of a Construction Zone

Earlier this month, a Mississippi appellate court issued an interesting opinion discussing the limits on government immunity. In the case, Mississippi Transportation Commission v. Adams, the plaintiff was the estate of a man who was killed when he inadvertently rode his motorcycle into a construction zone and was involved in an accident. The court ultimately denied the government’s assertion of immunity, holding that the specific negligent act at issue was ministerial rather than discretionary.

Road LineThe Facts of the Case

Adams was riding his motorcycle on Interstate 10 when he accidentally entered a construction zone. As he tried to exit the construction zone safely, he struck an area where the pavement was not level, lost control, and was thrown from the motorcycle. After he fell off the bike, he was struck by at least two other passing vehicles. He died as a result of the injuries he sustained.

His estate filed a negligence lawsuit against the Transportation Commission, a government agency, claiming that the roadway was unnecessarily dangerous because the construction zone was not properly marked. One of the claims alleged that the white lines leading into the construction zone had not been covered up. The agency asserted its government immunity as a defense to the lawsuit.

Government immunity acts to protect government agencies and employees when they are performing certain discretionary tasks associated with running a government. Immunity does not attach, however, when the negligent act at issue is a ministerial one, meaning that the act is required and does not involve the use of governmental discretion. The Transportation Commission claimed that traffic control is a discretionary function, in that the government can choose how it goes about controlling the traffic, so immunity was proper.

The court issuing the opinion disagreed. Of special importance was a specific state regulation outlining how government agencies (and the construction crews the agencies may employ) are to go about marking construction zones. The regulation read:  “All centerline, lane lines, edge lines and no-passing stripes that have been covered or removed during the day’s operations shall be replaced with temporary stripe before work is discontinued for the day or as soon as weather conditions will permit[.]” The court pointed to the word “shall” and explained that this made covering the lines a ministerial task. As a result, immunity was not proper in this case, and the plaintiff’s case should proceed toward trial.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Construction Zone Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an accident in or near a construction zone, and you believe your injuries may have been due to the negligence of the road crew or government entity in charge of the project, you should consult with a dedicated motorcycle accident attorney because you may be entitled to substantial compensation. The skilled attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Cohn & Smith have decades of experience helping their clients seek compensation for their injuries and would be happy to discuss your options with you. Call 954-431-8100 to set up a free consultation today.

Related Blog Posts:

What May Constitute a Florida “Medical Malpractice” Case Can Be Surprising, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, June 3, 2016.

Jury Verdict in Premises Liability Lawsuit Reversed by Appellate Court, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, June 27, 2016.

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