2nd Circuit Affirms City of Shreveport’s Liability for Failure to Maintain Sidewalks

The plaintiff, Linda Garcie, filed a claim against the city of Shreverport after she sustained multiple injuries from tripping over an elevated portion of a sidewalk within the city. Ms. Garcie was walking her dog when she tripped over a crack in the sidewalk. The sidewalk was located outside the residence of Ms. Emily Pasquier, and was maintained by the city of Shreveport. After the pain in her right shoulder continued to bother her days after the accident, Ms. Garcie decided to seek medical treatment for her injuries. The court found the city to be 75% liable for Ms. Garcie’s injuries, while the court determined that the remaining 25% of liability was from Ms. Garcie’s own fault. In filing its appeal, the city contended that the trial court erred in finding that the city was at fault for its failure to maintain the sidewalk on which Ms. Garcie tripped because the city had no knowledge of the apparent defect in the sidewalk.

The determination for a city’s liability over public objects, like a sidewalk, rests on three key factors: knowledge, opportunity, and neglect. LSA-R.S. 9:2800 states that in order to find a public entity liable for damages based on the condition of objects within their control, the public entity must have had actual or constructive notice over the condition of the object, have had a reasonable opportunity to remedy the defect, and have failed to do so. In Lee v. State, the court determined that in order for an individual to recover against a public entity, the plaintiff must show by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) the thing that caused damage was in the defendant’s custody; (2) the thing was defective due to a condition that created an unreasonable risk of harm; (3) the defendant possessed actual or constructive notice of the defect, yet did not take corrective action within a reasonable period of time; and (4) the defect was a cause in fact of plaintiff’s harm. The court in Graves v. Page established that in order for the appellate court to overturn the decision, the appellate court must determine whether the trial court’s conclusion is reasonable based upon the record as a whole.

Unfortunately for the city of Sherveport, the evidence presented at the trial court was heavily stacked against them. During the trial, it was discovered that Mr. Pasquier contacted the city on multiple occasions to notify them of the sidewalk’s condition. Originally, the Pasquires reported a three inch crack in the sidewalk, which was later repaired by the city. However, Mr. Pasquire testified that sometime between 2006 and 2007 a one inch crack in the same sidewalk reappeared. Again, he called the city to request a repair of the sidewalk. However, Mr. Pasquire also testified that the newly formed crack in the sidewalk was obvious to him and he had walked multiple times across the sidewalk without tripping. The city’s superintendent of street and drainage was responsible for the intake of street issues, like Mr. Pasquire’s report of the reoccurring sidewalk crack. The superintendent, relying on the city’s C-CAR complaint system, stated that at no time did Mr. Pasquire’s new sidewalk complaint ever appeared in their system. The system relied on an operator to input all public complaints requiring city maintenance. Due to Mr. Pasquire’s vague recollection of reporting the second sidewalk issue, and the failure of the city’s complaint system to not recognize any complaint by Mr. Pasquire, the city questioned whether the complaint was made at all. The city argued that Ms. Garcie failed to establish all elements of liability necessary to hold the city responsible because there was sufficient evidence to show that Mr. Pasquire’s sidewalk issue was never reported to the city, therefore preventing actual or constructive notice by the city of the defect.

The 2nd Circuit, following Graves v. Page, failed to see any evidence presented by the city that the trial court was clearly wrong in finding that Sherveport received actual notice of the defective sidewalk prior to Ms. Garcie’s fall. The trial court found Mr. Pasquire to be a creditable witness, and the failure of the computer system to recognize a complaint by Mr. Pasquire could reasonably be concluded as a failure of the operator to input the complaint. The requirement to hold a city like Shereveport responsible for defective sidewalks is by no means an easy case. However, the apparent failure of Shereveport to repair a sidewalk that had been reported as defective, resulting in injury, was enough to find the city liable in Ms. Garcie’s case.

Injuries to yourself or a loved one should not be taken lightly. If you believe that an injury was the result of some defect, you should consult with a lawyer, as you might be entitled to compensation.

If you have been injured, call the Berniard Law Firm at 1-866-574-8005 and speak with an attorney who can help you apply the most effective trial strategy to your case and obtain the recovery you deserve.