Our client, a 41-year-old female, sustained left knee and bilateral arm injuries when she fell after stepping on a manhole cover which collapsed under her weight. The manhole was located in a high traffic sidewalk area in a commercial district of Kansas City.
At the time we filed suit we did not have information about how the manhole cover had been damaged so that it would collapse when stepped on. Our investigation revealed that the subject manhole was located within a two block area that had recently undergone extensive renovation. We identified the name of the general contractor for this project and the subcontractors. We developed proof that heavy construction equipment had been used in connection with demolishing the sidewalk surrounding the manhole. We also developed proof that neither the general contractor nor the subcontractors had placed any barrier protection to shield the manhole and the manhole cover from damage during the demolition phase of the renovation even though they were contractually required to do so. We filed suit under the theory that the only logical explanation for the damage to the manhole cover was from the demolition work performed in connection with the renovation. The general contractor and all subcontractors denied responsibility for the damage to manhole cover and we were not able to prove other than by circumstantial evidence how or when the cover had been damaged. Nevertheless, we were able to develop proof that manhole covers such as the one at issue were and are durable and they only sustain significant damage when exposed to extreme force. We were also able to develop evidence that the damage to the manhole cover appeared to have occurred during the period of time in which the renovation work was conducted.
The case settled at mediation for $450,000.