The Kentucky Supreme Court recently considered the personal injury lawsuit of a man who was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident when he encountered a large, downed tree in the roadway.
Plaintiff suffered serious personal injuries and sought compensation from the county’s engineer and public works director, arguing these individuals owed a duty of care to maintain the roads in reasonably safe condition, and were negligent in failing to remove the tree or warn motorists about the danger. Defendants filed a motion for qualified official immunity in their individual capacities, which the trial court granted for the public works director, but not for the county engineer. An appellate court later affirmed this decision, citing the state statute that specifically states a county engineer is responsible to remove trees or other obstacles from public roads when the road debris is a hazard to traffic. (Defendant argued he wasn’t aware of the statute and it was the county’s public work’s maintenance department that was responsible for tree removal). With qualified immunity protection not available for defendant, the case went to trial and lasted eight days. Defendant testified he was never responsible for tree removal and his team didn’t have equipment to do so, as it had always been the job of the public works department.
After all evidence was presented, defendant sought a directed judgment, which was denied, but the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of defendant, concluding plaintiff hadn’t proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the engineer failed to comply with his statutory duty. Continue reading →