Tourist takes a tumble

Virginia woman’s lawsuit against Dewey dismissed
Attorneys agreed to dismiss a lawsuit against Dewey Beach filed by a Virginia woman who tried to sue the town after she fell on the sidewalk. BY KARA NUZBACK
December 20, 2013

Dewey Beach officials received an early Christmas gift this year – attorneys agreed to dismiss a case filed by a woman who attempted to sue the town because she tripped on the sidewalk.

Jennifer Roberts, of Herndon, Va., said she tripped on a broken section of sidewalk in Dewey Beach in July 2010.  Roberts filed a lawsuit about the incident two years later, claiming she fractured her wrist and forearm and chipped her tooth because of the fall.

In the complaint, Robert’s attorney, Martin Siegel of New Castle, accused the town of negligence for failing to ensure the sidewalk was safe for pedestrians and failing to fix the “hazardous condition.”

Siegel said the town should award Roberts damages to compensate for medical expenses and lost earnings because of the accident.

The town’s attorney, William Cattie of Wilmington, attempted to convince New Castle County Superior Court Judge Diane Clarke Streett to dismiss the case.

According to the Dewey Beach Code, anyone who files a personal injury claim must give the town notice within one year of the incident.

Cattie said the town had no notice of the fall until Roberts filed a lawsuit two years later.  Roberts’ attorney opposed the motion to dismiss, saying a letter of notice had been drafted and mailed to the town within one year of Robert’s accident, Cattie said.

Streett denied the town’s motion to dismiss in November 2012.

The town then filed its response to Robert’s complaint, in which Cattie argued Roberts’ negligence caused her to fall, and her blood-alcohol level affected her ability to perceive and walk.

Cattie also said Roberts filed for bankruptcy and no longer possessed the legal right to file a personal injury claim.

Cattie asked the court to rule in favor of the town. Streett scheduled the case for trial in September 2014.

But the case will never go to trial.

On Nov. 25, Cattie and Roberts’ new attorney, Matthew Fogg of Wilmington, entered a joint stipulation to dismiss the case with prejudice, which forbids Roberts from refiling the complaint.

Streett finalized the dismissal in a Dec. 4 order.

In a phone conversation, Cattie said, “I convinced the attorney he was going to lose.”

According to Delaware Code, governmental entities are immune from claims resulting from a flaw or lack of repair to a highway, sidewalk or parking area.

“You can’t sue the town for a defect in the sidewalk,” Cattie said.  He said no money was exchanged to end the litigation.

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