Earlier last month, a Maine appellate court issued a written opinion affirming the dismissal of a plaintiff’s case after it was established that the plaintiff did not comply with the notice requirement contained in a relevant statute. In the case, Deschenes v. City of Sanford, the plaintiff provided oral but not written notice of his intent to file a lawsuit. The court determined that oral notice did not count as “substantial compliance” with the rule, and it affirmed the case’s dismissal.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was visiting city hall to obtain information on how he could get a copy of his daughter’s birth certificate. While he was there, he tripped on some raised tread on a step and then fell down the flight of stairs. When he reached the bottom, he slid into a glass door, exacerbating his injuries.
After the man’s fall, city employees on the scene provided him with some basic first-aid until emergency responders arrived. Afterwards, the man was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries. Before he left, he told emergency responders that he had tripped on some raised tread on the stairs.
Exactly 178 days later, at around five in the afternoon, the plaintiff returned to city hall. He had trouble finding an employee, but he eventually found someone and explained that he knew he had 180 days to file a lawsuit, and he dropped off his emergency room bill. Then, 19 days later, the man filed a formal lawsuit against the city.
The city moved to dismiss the complaint because the plaintiff did not comply with the law requiring he provide notice of the lawsuit within 180 days. The plaintiff, in response, argued that his verbal notice given on day 178 should count as “substantial compliance,” and therefore his case should be allowed to proceed.
The court looked at the facts and determined that oral notice does not count as substantial compliance. The court explained that notice requirements are very important and should be strictly construed. Thus, as a result of this ruling, the plaintiff will not be able to seek compensation for the injuries he sustained as a result of his fall.
Procedural Requirements and Government Liability
Whenever a plaintiff seeks to bring a case against a government entity, there are several additional requirements that should be kept in mind in order to avoid dismissal. Whether it be overcoming governmental immunity or complying with certain notice or timing requirements, courts strictly enforce all procedural hurdles. Unprepared plaintiffs can easily have their case dismissed. It is therefore incredibly important to consult with a dedicated attorney prior to filing a case.
Have You Been Injured in a Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Virginia slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Of course, these cases can be complex and may require a skilled eye to ensure that you are in compliance with all requirements. To learn more about your case, call 703-491-7070 to set up a free consultation with our personal injury and wrongful death attorneys. Calling is free and will not result in you incurring any obligation unless we are able help you receive the recovery you deserve.
See More Blog Posts:
Court Allows Plaintiff to Rely Solely on Circumstantial Evidence in Lead-Based Paint Lawsuit, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, April 18, 2016.
Car Accident Victim’s Award Upheld after Government’s Appeal, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, May 3, 2016.