Conn. Appellate Court Overturns Jury Verdict, Holding Plaintiff’s Sole Remedy for Injuries Arising From Open Manhole Was State’s Highway Defect Statute

Statute of liberty with scales on red background

The court held that even though the plaintiff attempted to assert allegations of negligence against the defendant municipality, Connecticut’s highway defect statute was the plaintiff’s exclusive remedy.

June 14, 2021
Christy Jachimowski - Lewis Brisbois

Section 13a-149 of the Connecticut General Statutes, commonly known as Connecticut’s highway defect statute, provides that claims arising from injuries or damages to people or property resulting from a defective road or bridge can be asserted against a party responsible for maintaining that road or bridge. Conn. Gen. Stat. §13a-149. The statute also extends to sidewalks and further provides that written notice of an alleged injury must be given to a defendant municipality within ninety days of the injury.

Recently, in Dobie v. City of New Haven, 2021 Conn. App. LEXIS 162 (App. Ct. May 1, 2021), the Connecticut Appellate Court overturned the trial court’s denial of a municipal defendant’s post-trial motion to dismiss. The court held that even though the plaintiff attempted to assert allegations of negligence against the defendant municipality, Connecticut’s highway defect statute was the plaintiff’s exclusive remedy. Since the plaintiff failed to meet the requisite notice requirements, pursuant to the statute, the Appellate Court held that the trial court erred in denying the municipality’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The Underlying Case

In February of 2013, Plaintiff William Dobie filed suit against the City of New Haven alleging injuries and damages as a result of the negligence of a City of New Haven snowplow operator. Dobie’s claims arose from an incident that occurred on January 21, 2011, in which he was driving behind the City snowplow driver, who was in the process of plowing snow from a municipal street located in New Haven, Connecticut. As the defendant employee was operating his snowplow, he knocked off a manhole cover, causing Dobie’s vehicle to drive over the open manhole. Dobie claimed personal injuries as a result of his vehicle dropping into the open manhole, including injuries to his jaw.

Ms. Jachimowski may be contacted at Christy.Jachimowski@lewisbrisbois.com



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