Saturday, January 19, 2008

Government Slip-and Fall Claim Illustrates Double Standard of Tort Responsibility

Fairfax County, VA – coincidentally the area that I call home – is up in arms and crying “Ouch!” from the sting of the tort system. On January 31, 2005, Richard Thaxton was walking into court after a weekend snowstorm. Though county maintenance officials had just shoveled and salted the walkways.

But they missed a spot.

Thaxton – who had just had rotator cuff surgery two months earlier – slipped, fell and reinjured himself. So he did what any red-blooded American citizen would do. He sued the County government for $300,000, plus attorneys fees.

By a 6-4 vote, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors decided to reject a proposed $100,000 settlement recommended by an independent mediator. The County was indignant that it could be found liable for having missed a spot and asserted the defense of sovereign immunity.

I must confess that such cases leave me conflicted. On the one hand, I think that the claim is ridiculous and that the County exercised reasonable care. In the event of a large settlement or award, I – as a Fairfax County taxpayer – stand to fund such a dubious settlement.

On the other hand, ever day businesses are held to these same standards and no sense of government outrage or injustice is offended. Governments always seems indignant at having to drink from the same bitter cup that they have prepared for the rest of us to take.

Legit slip and fall claim or snow job?

1 comment:

Scarlett said...

Well written article.