Injured victim’s premises liability claim against town tossed out on technicality

January 30, 2016

When the people who make the laws are trying to protect themselves from liability, it is certainly a recipe for injustice and draconian law. This played out in front of the Rhode Island Supreme Court in the case of Maria Carbone v. John Ward, in his capacity as Finance Director for the Town of Lincoln et al.

The injured victim, Maria Carbone, alleged that she was injured on the Town of Lincoln property when “the street collapsed under her, causing her to fall into a large sink hole. She was asserting that she sustained serious personal injury due to this incident and faulted defendants for failure to properly maintain said area, resulting in a hazardous condition which injured Ms. Carbone.” Id.

Maria sent out two notices, an original notice and an amended notice, to the Town of Lincoln regarding her premises liability claims in an ill fated attempt to comply with Rhode Island’s draconian notice requirements to cities and towns.

The RI Supreme Court sitting in the Capital City of Providence determined that the injured claimant’s notice to the town of Lincoln was statutory insufficient. The Top Court in RI, therefore, blew up the cause of action by affirming the Providence Superior Court’s decision in favor of the Town of Lincoln*, Rhode Island.

This decision was a technical one to say the least because the injured victim’s claims were not heard on the merits of whether the town was in fact negligent and whether such negligence caused the Plaintiff’s alleged injuries in the  RI premises liability claim.

The moral of the story is that if you are injured on city or town property in Rhode Island you are legally required to send proper notice of the claim within 60 days and such notice must be in strict compliance with Rhode Island General Law Section 45-15-9 as well as the Supreme Court case law interpreting that statute.


Rhode Island law concerning notice of injury to town

Section 45-15-9 provides in relevant part:“(a) A person so injured or damaged shall, within sixty (60) days,give to the town by law obliged to keep the highway, causeway, or bridge in repair, notice of the time, place, and cause of the injury or damage; and if the town does not make just and due satisfaction, within the time prescribed by § 45-15-5, the person shall, within three (3) years after the date of the injury or damage, commence his or her action against the town treasurer for the recovery of damages, and not thereafter.” https://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SupremeCourt/Opinions/11-276.pdf

“The General Assembly has allowed an injured person to recover for damages arising from a municipality‟s failure to keep its sidewalks in a safe condition.2 General Laws 1956§ 24-5-1. Section 45-15-8 sets forth a mechanism through which injured citizens may recover for their losses in cases in which the injury could have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care. 3 However, a citizen may recover only in accordance with a strict statutory scheme that requires sufficient notice of the place of injury and an adequate description of the defect that caused the injury.“It is well settled that compliance with these statutory requirements is a condition precedent that must be satisfied for a plaintiff to maintain a suit against the municipality.” Prout, 996 A.2d at 1142 (citing Marshall v. City of Providence, 633 A.2d 1360, 1361 (R.I. 1993) (mem.) (reasoning that giving a municipality statutorily adequate notice is a condition precedent to a civil action and said condition may not be waived)).4 Indeed, “failure to provide proper notice is fatal to a suit brought under § 45-15-9.” Prout, 996 A.2d at 1142. This requirement on the part of the General Assembly may result in harsh consequences and preclude the resolution of a valid claim in our courts See § 45-15-9.” https://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SupremeCourt/Opinions/11-276.pdf

Ruling by the RI Supreme Court:

“Furthermore, even if plaintiff correctly had described the streets as perpendicular, the notice nevertheless fails to meet the “reasonably sufficient” standard articulated by this Court because it fails to specify on which of the four corners of that cross-section of streets the injury was and omits any description of how close to the corner, or how far from Winter Street, the injury occurred. Because the description provided in the notice excluded the actual area where the injury occurred, we agree with the trial justice that “[p]laintiff‟s notice did not fix the location in a [reasonably] sufficient manner.” The statute clearly and unambiguously requires that the notice of claim must be specific, therefore the notice in the case at bar must be deemed insufficient. See § 45-15-9; Prout, 996 A.2d at 1143. Id.

“Lincoln is a town in Providence County, Rhode Island, United States. The population was 21,105 at the 2010 census. Lincoln is located in northeastern Rhode Island, north of Providence.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln,_Rhode_Island Lincoln is near Pawtucket, Attleboro MA and Woonsocket.

If you were injured in a slip and fall or premises liability accident in RI or MA then you should contact a Rhode Island slip and fall lawyer or a Massachusetts premises liability attorney. A RI personal injury lawyer or a MA personal injury attorney will help you get the compensation that you deserve.

Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility: The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. While this firm maintains joint responsibility, most cases of this type are referred to other attorneys for principle responsibility.