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Slip-and-Fall Case Arising From City Sidewalk Allowed to Proceed Despite City’s Claim of Immunity

Earlier last month, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion dealing with governmental immunity as it applies to slip-and-fall cases occurring on government land. In the case, Kozak v. City of Lincoln Park, the court discussed the “highway exception” to the general rule that government agencies are not liable for injuries caused on their land or by their employees.

Leaves on SidewalkThe Facts of the Case

Mrs. Kozak was crossing the street in Lincoln Park when she tripped on a raised portion of the road. According to the court’s written opinion, there were two concrete slabs that met in the middle of the street. Where those two slabs met, there was about a three-inch height differential between the two slabs because they did not line up perfectly.

Kozak filed a personal injury lawsuit against the City of Lincoln Park, claiming that the City was liable for her injuries because it failed to fix the dangerous condition where the two concrete slabs met. In response to Kozak’s claims, the City asserted its governmental immunity, claiming that the road was reasonably safe. In support of its position, the City had the Director of Public Services testify that in his opinion, the roadway was safe.

At issue was whether the highway exception applied to the facts of the case. Under the highway exception, Kozak had to prove that the roadway was unsafe. She provided an affidavit from a resident of the area that explained the road had been in that same condition for the past six years. She also submitted photographic evidence showing the height differential. Finally, she provided evidence that the government had not paved, repaired, or maintained the road in the time prior to the accident. The government claimed that this was insufficient to rebut the City’s “expert” testimony that the sidewalk was safe.

The court disagreed. The court held that the Director of Public Services made only a conclusory statement that the roadway was not unsafe. He was not an expert in the field and did not offer how he came to his conclusion, and thus this was insufficient to defeat Kozak’s evidence that the roadway was dangerous. As a result of the appellate court’s decision, the plaintiff will be able to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Injured on Government Property in South Florida?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured on government property in South Florida, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While government agencies are sometimes entitled to immunity in certain circumstances, you should not assume this to be the case. In many cases, government immunity is waived or not applicable. To learn more about slip-and-fall cases in South Florida, call the dedicated premises liability attorneys at the Law Offices of Cohn & Smith at 954-431-8100 to set up a free consultation. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation on your part unless we can help you recover compensation for your injuries.

Related Blog Posts:

How the “Continuing Course of Treatment” Doctrine May Help Medical Malpractice Plaintiffs, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, July 13, 2016.

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

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