City May Be Liable for Injuries Following Accident Caused by Fallen Stop Sign

stop signRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a plaintiff’s case against the city that was responsible for maintaining the intersection where she was struck by another motorist could proceed to trial. The case presents important issues of government immunity that may arise in Maryland car accident cases that are filed against the state or federal government.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving northbound, and was approaching an intersection. As the plaintiff entered the intersection, she did not stop or slow down and continued through the intersection without seeing that another car was coming. The plaintiff was side-swiped by the other motorist and sustained serious injuries as a result.

The plaintiff later learned that the stop sign for northbound traffic had fallen and was lying on the ground. She explained that she did not see the stop sign or the car before entering the intersection. The plaintiff then filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city based on its failure to maintain the road signs at the intersection.

The applicable statue required that the plaintiff establish the defendant city had notice of the fallen sign, otherwise the city would be entitled to governmental immunity. The city claimed that it did not have notice of the fallen sign, and presented testimony from the police officer who responded to the scene following the plaintiff’s accident.

The responding officer testified that when she arrived on the scene, the stop sign was leaning off to the side but was still visible. She also explained that she routinely patrols the area, and had not noticed the fallen sign during any of her patrols, the most recent of which was two days before the accident.

Initially, the plaintiff provided only her own testimony, which stated that the sign was lying on the ground after the accident. However, a few days before the motion was heard, the plaintiff presented two witnesses who also testified that the sign had fallen prior to the day of the accident. One of these witnesses offered photographs of what he claimed was the fallen sign on the day of the accident. The court accepted the witnesses’ testimony and the photographs over the city’s objection.

The Court’s Decision

The court had to determine if the city had notice of the fallen sign. If so, then the plaintiff’s case should proceed to trial. However, if the city was unaware of the fallen sign then the city was entitled to immunity and the case should be dismissed.

The court determined that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence through her own testimony and that of her witnesses to give rise to a material fact regarding the issue of immunity. Thus, the court held that summary judgment was not appropriate, and the case should be submitted to a jury to decide whether the city had notice, and thus was immune from the plaintiff’s claims.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident that you believe was caused due to some dangerous hazard or condition on the road, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While government entities are immune in some limited circumstances, you should not assume that your case is one of them. The dedicated Maryland personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience handling Maryland car accident claims, including cases presenting complex issues involving government immunity. To learn how the lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen can help you with your case, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Finds that Car Dealership’s Insurance Policy Did Not Cover Customers on a Test-Drive, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published August 7, 2018.

Court Upholds Accident Victim’s Preferred Venue in Recent UIM Case, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published August 28, 2018.

Photo Credit: SHUBIN.INFO / Shutterestock.com

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