Woman’s Photographic Evidence of Uneven Sidewalk Taken 30 Days after Accident Insufficient to Survive Summary Judgment Challenge

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Michigan decided an interesting case involving the type of evidence that is sufficient to survive a summary judgment challenge by the defense in a slip-and-fall case arising from an allegedly uneven sidewalk. In the case, Bernardoni v. City of Saginaw, the court held that photos taken 30 days after the woman’s injuries were insufficient to prove the dangerous condition of the sidewalk on the day of her injury.

The Facts of the Case

Ms. Bernardoni was walking on the sidewalk in Saginaw, Michigan when she tripped and fell. Upon inspecting the sidewalk when she got up, she noticed that there was a 2.5-inch differential in the height between two adjacent slabs on concrete, creating the “lip” on which she had tripped. She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the local government, seeking monetary compensation.

In response, the government asked the court to dismiss the case based on the immunity it possesses under state law. Specifically, the government pointed to the state statute that requires anyone suing based on a dangerous sidewalk to prove that the government knew of the dangerous condition for at least 30 days prior to the accident.

The plaintiff and her husband provided pictures, taken about 30 days after the accident, showing the two uneven concrete slabs that made up the sidewalk. They argued that due to the significant nature of the differential, it had been in existence for at least the past 60 days. The government responded that such a statement was mere conjecture and failed to actually show that there was knowledge of the condition on the government’s part.

The trial court granted the government’s motion and dismissed the case. However, on appeal, the case was reversed. That court explained that it was very unlikely that the 2.5-inch gap occurred only recently, and the evidence was sufficient to create a triable issue. The defendant appealed that decision to the Michigan Supreme Court. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed again, implementing the trial court’s decision. The court agreed with the government that more evidence was required to meet the plaintiff’s burden.

Maryland Slip-and-Fall Cases

In Maryland, as in Michigan, government agencies are immune from many types of cases. However, when a government agency has knowledge of a dangerous condition but fails to fix it, liability may arise. To learn more about slip-and-fall cases occurring on government land, seek out an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Maryland slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While government immunity may be an issue that you must overcome, do not be discouraged initially. Many times, government liability is waived due to the government’s knowledge of a dangerous condition and subsequent indifference. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation with a dedicated attorney who will be happy to discuss your case with you and go over the options you have moving forward.

More Blog Posts:

Court Finds “Public Duty” Doctrine Applies, Preventing Government Liability in Boating Accident, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 12, 2016.

Court Finds Deceased Skateboarder Assumed the Risk of Injury, Preventing Family from Seeking Compensation, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 15, 2016.

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