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Walters v. City of West Monroe

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

February 4, 2015

BERNICE WALTERS, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
CITY OF WEST MONROE, CRAWFORD & COMPANY AND ABC INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants-Appellees

Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 2012-0949. Honorable C. Wendell Manning, Judge.

MONIQUE H. FIELDS, Counsel for Appellant.

HAYES, HARKEY, SMITH & CASCIO, By: C. Joseph Roberts, III, Brandon W. Creekbaum, Counsel for Appellee, City of West Monroe.

Before WILLIAMS, CARAWAY, DREW, MOORE and LOLLEY, JJ. MOORE, J., dissents with written reasons.

OPINION

Page 420

[49-502 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] CARAWAY, J.

The trial court rendered summary judgment in favor of the city-defendant after determining that no material issue of fact remained regarding the city's actual or constructive knowledge relating to a handicap ramp which dislodged as the elderly plaintiff grabbed it and fell to the ground. Finding that genuine issues of material fact remain, we reverse and remand.

Facts

On the afternoon of March 23, 2011, Bernice Walters,[1] accompanied by her son, Jerry Wright, took care of personal business at the West Monroe City Court facility.

Page 421

Wright parked his van in a handicap parking space next to a concrete ramp with side rails. The ramp had a very slight slope because its function was merely to provide access up to the level of the parking lot's curb. Consequently, the ramp extended from the curb for almost a car length into the parking lot. On each side of the ramp as it ascended to the curb was a metal handrail. The handrails were secured by metal footings bolted into the edge of the concrete ramp. Because of this configuration of the ramp in the parking lot, Wright was able to park his vehicle immediately adjacent and parallel to the ramp and one of the handrails.

Walters entered and exited the building up and down the ramp without incident. She ambulated with the aid of a cane and her son and did not utilize either of the handrails. After exiting down the ramp, she positioned herself to enter the passenger side of her vehicle next to the [49-502 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] handrail. She reached for the handrail for support to attempt to sit in her car, but the handrail gave way falling toward Walters. All three supporting poles and the aluminum handrail top detached from the three footings. Walters fell to the ground and sustained multiple injuries to her right side.

On March 27, 2012, Walters instituted suit against the City of West Monroe (" the City" ) and its liability insurer seeking damages for the injuries she sustained in the accident. Specifically Walters alleged that the City failed to exercise reasonable care in properly maintaining and inspecting the handrail in question.

On December 9, 2013, the City sought summary judgment on the grounds that Walters would be unable to carry her burden of proof to show either that the handrail was unreasonably dangerous or that the City had actual or constructive notice of its condition. Walters opposed the summary judgment and urged that material issues of fact remained relating to the issues of actual and constructive notice. Walters also contended that the City failed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ) by failing to inspect the ramp.

In oral reasons for judgment, the court ruled in favor of the City, after determining that there " appears to be no evidence that could support plaintiff's claim that the City had actual or constructive notice" of the condition of the handrail. A signed judgment dismissing the suit followed and this appeal by Walters ensued.

On appeal, Walters argues that the trial court erred in not recognizing the ADA as a successful defense to summary judgment and in determining [49-502 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] that no material issue of fact remained as to the ...


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