The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently issued an opinion involving a negligent maintenance and operation claim against the University of Maine. The plaintiff suffered injuries after she slipped and fell on a patch of untreated ice on a campus parking lot. In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the University moved for summary judgment asserting immunity under the Maine Tort Claims Act (MTCA). Specifically, they argued that the parking lot fell within an exception of the MTCA.
Generally, under the MTCA, governmental entities are immune from civil tort lawsuits involving the recovery of damages. Unlike other states, the MTCA recognizes an “exception-to-immunity approach rather than an exception-to-liability approach.” One such exception provides that governmental entities are liable for negligent acts or omissions in the “construction, operation or maintenance” of any buildings or the “appurtenances to any public buildings.”
While the MTCA does not explicitly define “appurtenance,” the Court considers appurtenance as an “object or thing that belongs or is attached to a public building.” As such, to be an appurtenance, the object at issue must be (1) physically annexed to the property, (2) adapted to the property and (3) intended to be irremovable from the property.
In this case, the parking lot is not physically annexed to the building and area the plaintiff was visiting. Thus, because the parking lot is not annexed, it cannot be an irremovable part of the building. However, even if the parking lot were connected to the buildings, it would not meet the remaining factor, as it was not unique to the building or library. Therefore, the Court found that because the parking lot is not an appurtenance, the plaintiff’s claim is one for which the law affords the University governmental immunity. This finding further narrowed the definition of appurtenance so that, in effect, it only means fixtures.
Cases involving governmental immunity require an in-depth understanding of substantive law, case law, and the procedural posture of the court reviewing the case. The limiting law puts injury victims in a precarious financial position. An attorney can help claimants understand the most efficient and effective way to relief after an accident or injury at a public or governmental building.
Have You Suffered Injuries Because of the Negligence of a Governmental Employee
If you or someone you know has suffered injuries or died because of the negligence of another person, business, corporation, or governmental entity, contact the lawyers at Peter Thompson & Associates. Our attorneys understand that injury victims deserve compensation, regardless of where their accident occurred. We work to ensure that our clients receive the best representation in their claims. In addition to Maine slip and fall cases, we handle motor vehicle accidents, product liability claims, general premises liability cases, medical malpractice, and wrongful death claims. Our attorneys provide clients with personalized attention and individualized case strategies to help them make informed decisions about how to pursue their actions. We have secured significant amounts of compensation on behalf of our clients. Contact our office at 1-800-804-2004 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our team.