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Wrongful Death/Road Defect

December 17, 2019

Terry Sides won a wrongful death case on behalf of an Alabama city.  Plaintiff claimed that his decedent, while crossing a city street as a pedestrian, was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by a third party. Plaintiff claimed that the driver of the vehicle was speeding at the time of the accident, that such was the result of the city’s failure to have a posted speed limit sign in the area, and that the city was aware beforehand that the area was without the necessary speed limit sign.

Summary judgment was sought and granted by the court in favor of the city on several grounds, including that plaintiff had failed to show the existence of the claimed street defect (i.e., the need for a speed limit sign at or near the location of the accident).  The evidence showed that speed limit and other traffic signs in the neighborhood which encompasses the street satisfies not only the “driving order” for traffic signs in the neighborhood, but also the applicable street sign regulations promulgated by the Federal Highway Administration. Moreover, testimony of two law enforcement officers with years of experience patrolling the neighborhood showed the absence of previous traffic accidents or speeding incidents on the street which might have suggested the need for more traffic control measures, like the additional speed limit sign upon which plaintiff based his claim.

Finally, plaintiff failed to show the city had prior notice of the claimed defect. Under well-settled Alabama law, a municipality has no liability for failure to remedy a street defect unless it had actual notice of the defect or the defect had remained on the street for such a length of time that it should have been discovered and remedied.  Plaintiff failed to present any facts upon which a jury could have concluded that the city had prior notice of any need for a speed limit sign at or near the location of the accident.

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