Late this month, an appellate court in Ohio issued an interesting decision involving the limits of a local government’s immunity from personal injury lawsuits involving claims that the government failed to maintain a public road. In the case, Bibler v. Stevenson, the court determined that a local government was not entitled to immunity when it allowed a stop sign to become overgrown with brush, resulting in a motorist running the stop sign and striking the plaintiff.
The Facts of the Case
Back in 2011, Bibler was driving through an intersection when he was struck by another motorist who had run a stop sign. When asked by police what happened, the other motorist explained that she had not seen the stop sign. The officer then investigated the motorist’s claim and agreed that the stop sign was obstructed by overgrown foliage.
Bibler filed a lawsuit against the other driver as well as the city where the intersection was located. Bibler eventually settled with the other driver out of court, and the case against the city proceeded toward trial. However, the trial judge dismissed the case against the city, explaining that the city was presumptively entitled to government immunity, and Bibler failed to establish an exception. Bibler appealed.
On appeal, Bibler claimed that government immunity was not appropriate in this case because the stop sign at issue was part of a “public road.” Under state law, local governments are responsible for the maintenance of public roads, and a government’s failure to maintain a public road can result in liability. The city responded that the stop sign was not a part of the road, and while the city could be liable for problems with the road itself, it could not be liable for the maintenance of the stop sign.
The court began by clarifying that, as a general rule, cities are not immune from liability when they fail to maintain a public road. However, “berms, shoulders, rights-of-way, or traffic control devices” are not considered to be a part of a public road unless the placement of a traffic control device is required by state law. Here, the court explained that the placement of the stop sign was required under state law because the intersection was one consisting of a “through highway.” Since state law requires stop signs at intersections of through highways, the city was responsible for its maintenance, and immunity did not attach.
Have You Been Injured on a Dangerous Roadway?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a car accident on a dangerous or poorly maintained road, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. This may even be the case if no other vehicles were involved in the accident. The skilled personal injury attorneys at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, LLP have decades of collective experience handling cases involving dangerous or poorly designed roads, and we know how to navigate our clients’ cases through the system in hopes of seeking maximum compensation. Call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation today. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation on your part unless we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
How Government Design Immunity Can Eliminate an Indiana Personal Injury Plaintiff’s Claim to Recovery, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, January 3, 2017
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