Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Scare talk: Lawsuits

The RDC's Web page tells us, "Sadly, the historic cobblestones have fallen into disrepair as they settled and sloughed at the toe."

Sadly, too, I'd have to agree with that. But then they drop the big scare-bomb:
The result is extremely unsafe walking conditions resulting in injuries, lawsuits and even one death from a fall. [my emphasis]

My initial reaction would be: "Okay, guys. Do what you gotta do. It's your job, anyway. Fix the darn things already. It should have been done decades ago."

But I'd still have to wonder: Why are they making such a big deal out of it? Is it really that big a deal?

A lawyer friend took the time to scour the District Court records and round up the filings for all those lawsuits.

All two of them.
  • On March 30, 1993, a musician named Michael Harbor fell on the cobblestones and fractured his left leg below his knee. It was 10:30 pm. He had just performed on a riverboat docked on the cobblestones. The case was dismissed after the parties announced that the matter had been settled.

  • On August 15, 1997, 83-year-old Catherine Sullivan took a cab from the Peabody Hotel to the foot of Beale Street where she intended to board the American Queen steamboat. As she walked down the cobblestones to the boat, she slipped and fractured her left ankle. At Baptist Hospital, a plate with screws was attached to her leg. She went through the operation well but suffered a heart attack at 12:25 a.m. on August 16, 1997. She was pronounced dead at 4:20 a.m. that day. The executrix of Sullivan’s estate sued the City of Memphis, the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, and others. On October 29, 2001, the court dismissed the case with prejudice after the parties announced that the matter had been settled.

(The public records do not include any mention of the settlement amounts.)

Updated: A reader of this site wrote me with more information. It appears that the first case was settled for 0 (zero) dollars. The second case was settled for $35,000.

Certainly, any City facility should be safe and well-maintained (and well lit if it's open at night). That's a given. Other cities maintain whole neighborhoods of cobblestoned streets without complaint. Perhaps it's surprising to me to find only two lawsuits in at least 16 years. For comparison, I wonder how many incidents might have occurred in other City locations in that period.

I also wonder this: How many lawsuits might the City be asking for when they open the facility pictured below? It's a question worth asking, but amazingly, it hasn't been asked yet.

Photo: Are trial lawyers eagerly waiting for this to be built?

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