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CITY LIABILITIES: Women Sues City for Sidewalk Fall

Carmel Pine Cone, March 18, 2005

By Mary Brownfield

A LOS Angeles woman who tripped and fell while walking downtown last summer filed a personal injury lawsuit in Monterey County Superior Court March 7, seeking compensation from Carmel-by-the-Seas and Carmel Marina Corp. Lynne Dewey caught her foot on a strip of raised brick separating the tree planter from the sidewalk on the south side of Ocean Avenue west of Mission Street around 12:30 p.m. Aug. 1, 2004. According to its report at the time, Carmel Fire Department dispatched an engine and the ambulance to the scene, where medics treated injuries to Dewey’s nose and forehead and took her to the Community Peninsula Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.

City personnel specialist Jane Miller said the public works department also fixed the hazardous brick strip after receiving report of the fall.

Three weeks later, Dewey filed a claim against the city for damages of more than $125,000 for pain, suffering and medical expenses.

As it customarily does with such demands, the city council voted Sept. 7, 2004, to deny it and forward the matter to St. Paul Travelers insurance company, which holds all of the city’s liability policies, Miller said.

Coming in just under the six-month time limit, Dewey filed her personal injury lawsuit March 7, and Miller said it was served on city hall the following Monday.

Alleging negligence and a “dangerous condition of public property,” the suit claims the city and the waste management company “were responsible for either the quality of a certain portion of sidewalk where the accident took place or were responsible for the collection and removal of waste products from city trash cans located within the immediate location of plaintiff’s fall.”

She blamed Carmel Marina Corp. for not telling the city of the “potential hazard” – the two-inch high brick strip – near the trash can.

But the suit also alleges the defendants “had actual notice of the existence of this dangerous condition and had been made aware earlier that this particular area was in need of attention,” and therefore had ample time to fix it before Dewey’s accident.

The fall wasn’t her fault because of “various factors such as pedestrian traffic flow, limited viewing, debris, shadowing and other issues of conspicuity.”

Dewey suffered injuries to her “health, strength and activity,” and her body and nervous system, all of which continue to cause “great mental, physical and nervous pain and suffering,” according to the suit.

She also clamed the fall led to permanent disability.

The lawsuit asks the court to grant her financial compensation for general damages, past and future medical expense, loss of income and earning capacity, incidental expenses and the cost of the suit.

Miller said the city is “press aggressive on trip and falls,” and the insurance company will handle whatever legal battles ensue.

Carmel pays $285,000 annually in insurance premiums that cover all aspects of potential liability, including public safety, property damage and injuries on city property, according to Miller.

In 2004, police took 28 reports of falls on city property; three resulted in claims against the city and one led to a lawsuit.

Last Updated: Dec 07, 08

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