Case Dismissed Against a Tennessee City for Pothole-Related Injury

Posted in Motorcycle Safety,Negligence,Personal Injury on March 4, 2014

A recent case in front of the Tennessee Court of Appeals at Jackson illustrates the difficulties of bringing a tort action against a municipality in the State of Tennessee. In the case of Merrell v. City of Memphis, a motorcycle rider sued the city of Memphis for injuries he sustained when he crashed his motorcycle after running into a pot hole on New Horn Lake Road in Memphis.

motorcycle-stunter-tyre-burnout-1301095-mAccording to the motorcyclist plaintiff, he was riding down the road when his motorcycle hit the pothole, sending him off his bike. He claimed that the City of Memphis was negligent in maintaining the roadway, and that the city should compensate him for his injuries, which he alleged were $300,000.

Generally speaking, states and municipalities have immunity from lawsuits, including in Nashville and surrounding cities. However, there are many exceptions to this general rule where that immunity does not apply. In this case, the pertinent law allowed for lawsuits against the city when the city has actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition and has not done nothing to fix the condition.

At trial, the plaintiff tried to show that the City had knowledge of the pothole by having several witnesses testify. One witness was a city employee charged with repairing potholes.  He testified that the area where the plaintiff crashed was a problem area for potholes due to a high amount of truck traffic. The employee testified that he had been out to that general area numerous times over the course of the year to repair various potholes, but he could not testify to visiting the specific pothole in question. He also explained that the potholes cold form quickly when wet roads were combined with high volume truck traffic.

The plaintiff also attempted to prove actual or constructive knowledge by the “common occurrence” theory, which allows a plaintiff to prove knowledge by showing that there was a pattern of dangerous behavior and it is therefore reasonable to assume that the defendant knew there was a current danger. However, the cases that the plaintiff relied on were distinguishable on their facts and were ultimately not useful to his case.

In the end, the judge dismissed the lawsuit because the plaintiff was unable to prove that the City had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition.

Bringing Tort Actions in Nashville is Best Left to the Professionals

As you can see from the case above, bringing a tort action is not always as cut and dry as it initially may seem. For this reason exactly, it is advisable to speak with an experienced Nashville personal injury attorney before you proceed with your case. There are many pitfalls awaiting the pro se litigant in Tennessee civil courts. However, with the assistance of an experienced attorney, you will ensure that you are doing everything you can to sidestep the potential hazards. Click here to contact an attorney online, or call 615-200-1111 today to schedule your free initial consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

Serving the Defendant with the Lawsuit within One Year of the Wreck, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published January 31, 2014.

Honda Bike and ATV Safety Questioned, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published November 1, 2012.