City may be liable for injuries caused by an open valve box

If a person is injured by a dangerous condition which exists due to the negligence of another party, that negligent party should be held accountable. This may be true even if the negligent party is a city, as seen in the Alaska Supreme Court case of Kelly v. Municipality of Anchorage.

A street crosswalk . . . and an unexpected hole

The victim was crossing a street using a crosswalk on a street in Anchorage when she stepped into an uncovered valve box. A valve box generally has a cover and allows municipal employees to access water control valves. The victim tripped and fell and suffered injuries to her knee, ankle, leg, hip and back.

The victim filed suit against the Municipality of Anchorage alleging that the city was negligent in leaving the valve box open. Unfortunately, the superior court granted summary judgment for the city, ending the victim's case before she even had her full day in court. The victim appealed this decision.

Was this the second accident in the crosswalk?

The Alaska Supreme Court explained that for the victim to win her case, she needed to show that the city either caused the valve box lid to be left uncovered or knew or should have known that the box was open. The victim argued that genuine issues of material fact existed on these issues, precluding the premature summary judgment of the lower court.

A witness had stated that, prior to the victim's fall, he had seen city workers working on the crosswalk and using a jackhammer. During that time, the valve box cover would be removed and left off at various times. He also stated that when the workers left, the cover was still open. The witness also personally recalled fresh paint in the crosswalk, indicating that the intersection had been painted just before the accident. This testimony was based on his personal observation and raised a genuine issue of material fact.

In addition, another person had allegedly fallen into the open box approximately a week earlier. The length of time the dangerous condition existed and the number and nature of prior accidents-which might result in a determination that the city should have known of the condition-was a question that should be resolved in a full proceeding. Thus, a genuine issue remained on the question of the city's notice of the condition.

Therefore, the summary judgment related to this serious accident was premature and the lower court's decision was reversed. The victim would have her full day in court.

Financial compensation for your injuries

If you slip, trip or fall and are injured due to a dangerous condition-whether it is an open valve box, a slippery floor, or accumulations of unplowed snow and ice-you may qualify for financial compensation for your injuries. Seek an experienced personal injury attorney who has consistently achieved positive results in such cases.