Final Verdict: Broken Sidewalk Caused Fractures
For most people, maintaining lawns and walkways on property seems like a thankless task. At best, it’s a point of pride, where homeowners compete to make their lawn neater and greener than the neighbors. However, neighborhood bragging rights aren’t the only reason to take good care of property and maintain walkways that are clear of defects, as a Williamsburg, VA tennis resort learned in March of 2017.
Christine Estep, a 40-year-old tennis player, was participating in a tennis league program at the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, VA on September 2013 when she was seriously injured. The resort had an asphalt path between the tennis courts, but a portion of the asphalt was broken and had been overgrown by grass. Unknown to Christine, the grass-covered a hole that was about a foot and a half deep. Not noticing the hole, she stepped into it. Instantly, she felt shooting pains in her leg: she had fractured both her right ankle and her knee.
An ambulance took Christine to a local emergency room, where she received surgery to repair her broken knee and ankle. As a result of the accident and subsequent recovery, Christine had limitations with playing tennis and walking. She had residual pain from the injury and difficulty performing activities of daily life. Cohen & Cohen
Eventually, with the help of a broken sidewalk lawyer, she sued Xanterra Kingsmill, the owner of Kingsmill Resort, for its negligence in failing to maintain the walkway in a safe and defect-free condition. Her suit cited Xanterra for sidewalk defect, dangerous conditions, negligent repair and/or maintenance, and trip and fall.
Contrary to common belief, it is not enough for a person to simply be injured on a property in order to claim damages; they must show that the owner of the property knew or should have known about the dangerous condition and failed to remedy it. Injuries resulting from a plaintiff’s own mistake (or from a dangerous condition that the property owner could not reasonably have known about) do not constitute negligence and do not permit recovery at trial.
During the three-day trial, Xanterra’s attorneys did not dispute Christine’s injuries, but argued that they had no prior notice of the hole. They said that many people, including Christine, had safely walked along the path before, and that no one had ever complained. They said they didn’t know there was a hole there, and claimed this meant they weren’t responsible for her injuries. They even tried to blame Christine, arguing that the grassy patch was “open and obvious” and claiming that she should have walked around it.
Despite the fervency of their arguments, the jury wasn’t impressed. Even if Xanterra wasn’t actually aware of the hole, it was obvious that they should have been aware of the hole. It was a condition that had clearly persisted for some time, as the grass had grown to cover it, and so they had ample opportunity to discover. After only two hours of deliberation, the jury unanimously agreed to award $130,000 in damages to Christine.