Monday, February 14, 2011

Is Local Government Responsible for Hazardous Conditions

I am working this week with high school student government classes attending an Alaska Supreme Court oral argument concerning a woman who suffered a serious injury as a result of tripping in an uncovered water main valve box:  basically an uncovered hole in the ground. 

The Municipality agrees that the hole should be covered but says that there is no evidence that a Municipal worker uncovered it or that the Municipality knew about it.  In response, the injured woman points out that it had been uncovered at least a week because another person had complained about it supposedly triggering a call to the Municipality.

The case raises several questions regarding governmental responsibility:  Who among us has not called a government office only to have the government worker encountered during the next visit say there was no record of the call?   Who should bear the consequences of the uncovered hole in the ground, the Municipality that created the hole or the woman who was injured as a result of the hole?

One always has to play their hand smartly.