Bangor Injury Cases: Court in Himmelstein v. Windsor Discusses Liabilty

Roads are a critical component of our daily lives. We rush along and often take for granted that there will not be any obstructions on the roads we rely on. But have you ever wondered why you have this perception?
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The law imposes specific duties of care on states and cities. If you have been injured in a bicycle accident in Bangor, it may have been because of the failure of your state or municipality to maintain the streets.

Our experienced Bangor injury attorneys understand that when you have been injured, your main concern should be getting better. Let us concentrate on getting you the justice you are entitled to while you concentrate on recovering from your injuries.

Himmelstein v. Town of Windsor is a highway defect case that arose because the plaintiff was in a bicycle collision with a police radar trailer that was parked on the side of the road. The main question in this case was whether a town can be held liable for injuries the plaintiff suffered as a result of a defect in a state road. There was significant confusion surrounding municipal and state liability, thus the court defined several applicable legal doctrines.

Himmelstein (“Plaintiff”) was riding a bicycle in heavy traffic. This traffic caused the plaintiff to ride onto the outer part of the road, in between the fog line and the curb. On this portion of the road, the city police department had a radar trailer stationed. Plaintiff hit the radar trailer and suffered several physical injuries and economic damages. Because of these injuries and damages, plaintiff sued the town claiming that because they breached their statutory duty of care, the town acted negligently. Plaintiff argued that in the alternative to negligence, the town should be held liable under nuisance.

Negligence is a reason for the imposition of liability where the defendant has a specified duty of care. Statute is often created to impose a duty of care on specific parties. This duty imposed by statute is called a statutory duty of care. In a negligence claim, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the four elements of negligence. These elements are:sthe defendant has a duty of care, the defendant breached their duty, the breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages, and the plaintiff must prove damages.

Conversely, nuisance is a principal of civil liability imposed where there is an intrusion on an individual’s rights to be free from injury or distress. Nuisance is comprised of two classifications:sprivate nuisance and public nuisance. Private nuisance is where a property owner or leaseholder is obstructed from their right of quiet enjoyment of property. In order to assert a claim under this theory of private nuisance, the plaintiff is required to have a legal interest in the land that is affected by the intrusion of a third party which causes some type of damage to the plaintiff.

On the other hand, public nuisance is where the acts or omissions of party causes damage or inconvenience to the public at large. This is most commonly seen in the areas of public health, safety, peace and convenience.

In Himmelstein, plaintiff argued that his injuries were the result of the placement of the radar trailer , which should be considered a highway defect. Because of this classification as a highway defect, plaintiff argued that the town created this unsafe condition thus imputing liability onto the town. Furthermore, plaintiff argued that the town had failed to comply with their statutory duty of care when they did not warn the public that the radar trailer was on the side of the road. It was because of this failure to comply with their duty, plaintiff was injured and suffered damages.

Conversely, the town argued that the road where the collision occurred was a state highway and the town is not liable for the maintenance of state highways. Because this was a state highway, the town argued that they had no duty to warn of any unsafe conditions or make the road safe.

Because the town cannot be held liable for the lack of warning and maintenance of a state road, the court entered summary judgment for the town. However, the court did explain that the plaintiff could sue the state for their failure to warn the public of the potential dangers associated with the placement of this police radar trailer.

This case is an example of how important it is to identify the proper parties in your Bangor personal injury case.

If you have been injured contact Maine injury attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates to schedule a free appointment. Call 1-800-804-2004.

Additional Resources:

Himmelstein v. Town of Windsor et al., No. SC 18455 (Conn. Apr. 3, 2012).