Personal Injury Plaintiff’s Case against Government Dismissed for Failure to Comply with Tort Claims Act Requirements

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Maine issued a written opinion in a case filed by a man against a local government, alleging negligence for failing to maintain a safe property near the city hall. In the case, Deschenes v. City of Sanford, the court ultimately dismissed the case because the plaintiff failed to comply with the state’s Tort Claims Act. Specifically, the plaintiff failed to provide written notice to the city within 180 days of his injury.

steps-1566937The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, Deschenes, was injured when he slipped and fell down the steps at the city hall after he went to obtain a copy of his daughter’s birth certificate. According to Deschenes, he tripped on a piece of tread that was uneven, fell to the bottom of the stairs, and then slid into some nearby glass doors.

After his injury, he contacted the nearest city employee, who provided some basic first-aid until emergency medical responders arrived. Once they arrived, Deschenes was transported to the hospital. It was determined that he has suffered some “abrasions.”

Deschenes did not return to the city hall, nor did he contact government officials, until 178 days after his injury. On that day, he went to the city hall at around 5 p.m., after the building’s doors had closed, but he was able to find an employee. He explained that he knew he had only 180 days to file a claim against the city and that he intended to do so. About three weeks later, a formal complaint was filed.

At trial, the city asked the court to dismiss the case based on the fact that Deschenes failed to comply with the mandatory 180-day reporting requirement under the state’s Tort Claims Act. The plaintiff responded that he “substantially complied” on the 178th day by providing verbal notice.

Ultimately, the court sided with the city. The court explained that substantial compliance was not met here. The Tort Claims Act outlines that a party can substantially comply if they file, but their filing is inaccurate somehow, perhaps in regard to the time or specific location of the incident. However, failing to file written notice, and providing verbal notice instead, was not substantial compliance, and the court affirmed the case’s dismissal.

The Maryland Tort Claims Act

In Maryland, the rule is a little more relaxed. Maryland plaintiffs have 360 days to provide written notice of their injury and intent to file a lawsuit to the applicable government. Additionally, in cases in which a plaintiff can show “good cause,” that deadline may be extended. However, there are very specific facts that must be stated with particularity. Therefore, an attorney’s assistance is recommended.

Have You Suffered a Slip-and-Fall Injury on Government Property?

If you or a loved one has recently suffered a slip-and-fall accident on the property of a county, state, or federal government, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, there are strict hurdles that must be met, or your case could be subject to dismissal. To learn more about premises liability cases, call 410-654-3600 today to speak with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney.

More Blog Posts:

Court Determines City Employee Not Personally Immune from Negligence Lawsuit, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 22, 2016.

Personal Injury Cases Based on Environmental Contamination, Maryland Accident Law Blog, April 1, 2016.

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