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3-27-09

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edgerton woman awarded $550,000
MoDOT must pay damages

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

An Edgerton woman who slipped and fell off a curb maintained by the Missouri Department of Transportation has been awarded $550,000 in damages by a board of arbitrators.

Linda Matthews, 54, sued the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, a six member board that governs MoDOT, after she was injured from tripping on an uneven shoulder surface on Z Hwy. in Edgerton.

The arbitrators assigned 15% comparative fault to Matthews, resulting in an award of $467,500. Though the judgment was for $467,500, the award is restricted under Missouri law to $362,000, a cap number determined by the state legislature.

On the evening of Nov. 4, 2004, Matthews was visiting her son and upon leaving his residence she attempted to cross to the other side of the street where her car was parked. As she crossed the street, she was watching for oncoming traffic when her foot was caught, causing her to fall, her attorney says.

Matthews, who declined to comment for this story, sustained a right shoulder separation and a left tibia fracture from the fall. She had surgery to repair the leg fracture. Matthews incurred about $59,000 in medical bills.

She alleged negligence by MoDOT for not maintaining safe road conditions and using ordinary care to remedy the road conditions. MoDOT contended that Matthews’ accident was her fault because she did not watch where she stepped.

When the plaintiff’s attorney, John R. Cady of the Platte City firm of Cady and Campbell, contacted the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission regarding a settlement, the defendants refused to offer any monetary compensation. Cady said shortly before the case went to arbitration the commission offered to settle for $50,000, which was turned down by Matthews.

“MoDOT ignored the public safety issues on Z Highway and they continued to take no action to rectify the situation,” Cady said.

Cady added that Matthews’ accident “was a direct (result) of MoDOT’s negligence and we felt confident that the arbitrators would confirm this with a substantial monetary award.”

Donna Hay, former mayor of Edgerton, stated in the arbitration hearing that she contacted MoDOT on several occasions regarding the allegedly poor conditions on Z Hwy., which runs through the town of Edgerton. According to the former mayor, MoDOT stated that there was not enough money in the budget to make all the repairs on Z Hwy., although MoDOT did some repair work on other sections of the highway in Edgerton.

MoDOT employees admitted in depositions, which were presented at the arbitration hearing, that the costs of the material to repair the shoulder would have been around $50 and a crew could make the repairs in less than an hour.

“Had MoDOT seen the importance of this matter and spent the monies needed for the repairs then none of this would have happened,” Cady said.

Cady added in his opinion “this is an example of a state agency being ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ and failing to put public safety first. Linda Matthews would have never suffered this injury if MoDOT had repaired the highway. Now, she will receive compensation for injuries and suffering but it is a much greater amount than it ever would have cost to repair the highway.”

Cady said the fracture of the left tibia has affected his client’s walking ability.

“It has affected her. She doesn’t get around as well as she did before,” he said.

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