Monday, January 21, 2002
Help Me Howard: Sidewalk Suit
Tonight, a legal question: If someone falls and gets hurt because the sidewalk in front of your home is cracked or broken, can "you" be sued.
That's what one man wants to know after a law suit claims a child was injured while riding past his house.
Is your sidewalk your problem or the city's?
Paul Barrows spends a lot of time taking care of his yard and what he saw on his sidewalk caught his eye.
Paul Barrows, sued over sidewalk, says "It had raised from the trees in the swale, from the trees about a half inch or so."
So when Paul saw a City of Lauderhill crew repairing one of his neighbor's sidewalks, he asked them to fix his.
He says, "There's a lot of kids in the neighborhood that ride their bikes back and forth. From a safety standpoint I thought it would be a good idea."
But, about that time, allegedly, a kid riding a tricycle, fell.
"I got a letter in the mail from a lawyer who said that a young boy had hurt himself on the sidewalk and he wanted my homeowners policy number."
Paul was suspicious, especially since no-one had ever heard of the kid.
Paul says, "I have a six year old that plays with all the kids in the neighborhood and a sixteen year old. Nobody had heard of this boy. I still don't know where this boy lives. Or the extent of his injuries."
Just to be sure though, Paul sent the attorney a certified letter.
"I believe the city was working on it at that time like I told you in February. And I didn't feel like I was responsible."
The attorney for the tricycle riding child sent another letter.
"The last letter that I got where he threatened me and said I had 15-days to give him that policy number or he could hold me personally liable."
Reluctant to give out his homeowners policy number, Paul called "Help Me Howard."
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert, explains that "Under the law, the attorney is entitled to the homeowner policy number. But Paul doesn't have to give it to him personally. What he should do is contact his homeowners insurance and let them handle the matter."
In fact Howard says if you don't notify the insurance company right away it could hurt their ability to fight the claim. In that case, they could legally refuse to pay the claim.
But Paul does not have to worry about any of that, Howard says the wrong person is being sued.
Howard says "In this case it is the city's obligation to protect the public from defects in the sidewalk, even though the city can make the homeowner pay to repair the sidewalk, the city is responsible for it getting done."
Paul is relieved, just left curious about the so-called injured child no-one saw get injured.
Even though Howard says the city is responsible if someone is hurt on the sidewalk, he told Paul to contact his insurance company just to be safe.
And if you are wondering about the boy on the tricycle, it turns out he had a $300 hospital bill.
He's suing for $15,000.
Someone walking all over you, wanna trip em up, contact us.
We'll try to insure a quick simple solution.
(Copyright 2002 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)