Jury Increases Award of Compensation for Falling in a Hole Left by a Utility Company

A New Jersey jury has increased an award of compensation for falling in a hole left by a utility company after an arbitrated settlement was appealed.

In April 2012, the Jersey Central Power & Light Company (JCP&L) removed a broken pole from outside the Barnegat Township property owned by Nancy Jacobs. The removal of the pole left a four-inch by six-inch hole by the bottom of Nancy´s driveway that the utility company highlighted with iridescent paint and placed a warning cone over.

Over the next two months, grass grew around the hole – obscuring the painted area – and the warning cone vanished. Nancy´s partner considered the open hole to be a hazard, and he wrote to JCP&L complaining about the condition of the hole. The utility company did not reply or take any action to isolate or fill the hazard.

On June 18th 2012, Nancy was walking down the driveway outside her home, when she was diverted from the driveway by an operating sprinkler system. As she approached the curb, her right foot went into the hole – causing her to fall backwards in a twisting motion that resulted in a torn meniscus cartilage in her knee and the aggravation of an existing back condition.

After seeking legal advice, Nancy claimed compensation for falling in a hole left by a utility company. JCP&L denied liability and argued that – within the scope and extent of industry maintenance standards – the company had acted reasonable. Mandated arbitration led to Nancy being awarded $400,000 compensation for falling in a hole left by a utility company.

JCP&L appealed the arbitrated settlement and the case was heard by a jury at Ocean County Superior Court before Judge James Den Uyl. The jury determined that the value of Nancy´s claim was $650,000, but attributed her 20% comparative negligence as she had known for two months that the hole existed. Consequently Nancy will receive $520,000 compensation for falling in a hole left by a utility company.


Haringey Council Aim to Reduce Injury Claims for Trips on Footpath Potholes

Haringey Council in North London has announced plans to revise the frequency at which potholes on pavements are inspected and repaired in a bid to reduce injury claims for trips on sidewalk potholes.

The decision to invest more resources into maintaining the council´s streets and pavements follows the seven-figure compensation settlement of an injury claim for a trip on a sidewalk pothole paid to Kyle Bullock earlier this year, after the charity worker sustained a brain injury when tripping on a three-inch pothole in the pavement on Lightfoot Road in Hornsey.

An investigation following the settlement of the claim revealed that the Council´s policy of inspecting its pavements and roads every six months – and only filling potholes with a depth of two inches or more – was costing more money in the settlement of injury claims for trips on sidewalk potholes than it was saving.

A spokesperson for Haringey Council said that the pavements and roads within the borough would be inspected more frequently; with repairs being undertaken within six days (rather than the present twenty-eight days) on potholes with a depth of one inch or greater. The improvements to the pavements and roads within Haringey´s boundaries are expected to be completed within six months at a cost of £109 million.


Appeal Court finds Local Government Jointly Negligent in Pothole Crash Injury Claim

The Appeal Court has found Devon Council jointly negligent in a pothole crash injury claim following a car accident on the C-25 which left one passenger brain damaged and a second tetraplegic.

The accident, which happened in November 2006, occurred when a Land Rover driver – identified as “TR” – overtook a slow moving car travelling on the rural road between Honiton and Smeatharpe. As he was doing so, “TR”´s offside wheels dropped into an 8cm pothole alongside the edge of the road. “TR” attempted to steer his vehicle out of the defect in the road but lost control of the Land Rover and swerved across the road and crashed into trees. A Later investigation found that the Land Rover had been travelling at 45mph – well within the speed limit for the road.

“TR”´s two passengers both sustained catastrophic injuries – one suffering permanent brain damage and multiple skeletal injuries, while the second passenger was rendered tetraplegic and suffered traumatic amputation of an arm. Each passenger received compensation for their pothole crash injuries from “TR”´s insurance company, but the “TR” subsequently made a pothole crash injury claim against Devon Council – claiming that he would not have had the accident were it not for the poor condition of the road.

At the High Court in April 2012, Mrs Justice Slade found that Devon Council was 100 percent liable for the accident on the grounds that the safety inspection regime on the stretch of road had been inadequate and its state of repair was “well below a standard a reasonable driver could expect”.

The judge heard evidence that the road was only inspected twice a year contrary to the Code of Practice for Highway Maintenance Management (2005) to adequately inspect and maintain the winding and hilly road. The judge was also told that no risk assessment had been carried out prior to the six-monthly inspection program being adopted despite the council being aware that the road was used by agricultural vehicles and heavy goods lorries.

However, at the Appeal Court in London, Lord Justice Hughes – sitting with Lord Justice Lloyd and Sir Stanley Burnton – found that, although he could find no flaw in Mrs Justice Slade´s interpretation of the law, “TR” bore half the blame for the tragedy and 50 percent liability in the pothole crash injury claim. Lord Hughes said that the pothole in the road was “there to be seen” and there had been plenty of room to manoeuvre. He ruled that “TR”´s inadvertent error in not seeing and avoiding the 8cm pothole contributed to the accident.

He concluded: “Although the error may have been one which many might make, it amounted to a significant failure to keep a proper lookout and to manage the car correctly; it had terrible consequences. In my view, the only proper finding was that there was contributory negligence to the extent of 50 percent”.

Footnote: The two passengers have already settled their claims for pothole crash injury compensation. The passenger with the brain injury received a lump sum of £1.2 million, while the second victim was awarded a lump sum of compensation for pothole crash injuries amounting to £3 million plus annual payments of £275,000. The High Court case in April 2012 and Appeal Court case above were heard to determine liability in the pothole crash injury claim.


Child Receives Compensation for Scar Injury after Trip and Fall at Construction Site

A girl from Dublin is to receive 20,000 Euros in compensation for scar injury after she tripped and fell into a hole dug by a local construction company.

Kodie Geoghegan Dowdall (12) of Ballymun, Dublin, was just seven years of age when, in December 2006, she tripped and fell into the hole while on her way to visit her aunt. Despite receiving medical treatment for her injuries, Kodie developed a scar which failed to heal and, through her mother, made an accident injury compensation claim against the construction company – SIAC Construction of Clondalkin, Dublin.

SIAC Construction denied responsibility for Kodie´s accident, however made an offer of compensation for scar injury without admission of liability. In Dublin´s Circuit Civil Court, Mr Justice Matthew Deery heard that the offer of 20,000 Euros would be adequate for Kodie to receive appropriate treatment once she turned eighteen to have the scar removed.

Approving the compensation for scar injury, Mr Justice Matthew Deery ordered the funds to be paid into court – a normal procedure in child accident compensation claims – until such time as Kodie is old enough to have the revision surgery performed.