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JUDGMENT FOLLOWING BENCH TRIAL – Premises Liability – Fall down – Plaintiff tripped and fell on a raised portion of sidewalk – Fractured wrist – Left medial meniscus injury – Lumbar spine injuries.

New Haven County, CT

In this premises liability matter, the plaintiff pedestrian alleged that the defendant city was negligent in creating a hazardous condition by a portion of raised sidewalk that resulted in the plaintiff tripping. As a result, the plaintiff fell and fractured his wrist, as well as injuring his knee and lower back. The defendant denied the allegations, and maintained that the plaintiff failed to make proper observations and was liable for his own injuries and damages.

On July 18, ________, at approximately 5 p.m., the male plaintiff was walking with his four-year-old granddaughter on the sidewalk where the incident occurred. The plaintiff was walking on the outside of the sidewalk closest to the roadway, and his granddaughter was riding a scooter. The sidewalk in the area where the plaintiff fell was asphalt as opposed to the surrounding sidewalk, which was cement. The plaintiff, and his granddaughter, tripped over a raised or heaved section of sidewalk approximately four inches in height and 16 inches wide. As a result, the plaintiff fell and sustained injuries. He was diagnosed with a fractured wrist, left medial meniscus tear, and joint effusion and disc bulges in his lumbar spine at L1-L2 and L2-L4. The plaintiff was required to undergo surgical repair of his wrist and knee and brought suit against the defendant, alleging that the city was negligent in permitting a hazardous condition to exist, and in failing to maintain the sidewalk.

The defendant denied the allegations, and maintained that the plaintiff was liable for his injuries and fall. The defendant argued that the condition of the heaved section of sidewalk was so openly obvious that the plaintiff had to have seen it, and could have avoided it. The defendant also disputed the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and damages.

The matter proceeded to a bench trial. At the conclusion, the court ruled that while there was a defect of which the defendant had prior notice based upon the testimony presented by the plaintiff failed to remedy the defect. The court, however, did not find the in favor of the plaintiff on the fourth requirement that the plaintiff be free from any contributory negligence. The court determined that the plaintiff, despite his testimony, the nature of the defect being as high and wide as it was, it would have been impossible for the plaintiff not to see if he was, in fact, looking straight ahead and not at all distracted, as he testified.Accordingly, the court determined that the plaintiff’s fall was at least in part caused by his own negligence in failing to pay proper attention to where he was walking, and as such, he was unable to recover for his injuries, and judgment was entered in favor of the defendant.

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