City's Liability for Water Leak Affirmed but Plaintiff Hit With Comparative Fault

The importance of property owners acting promptly to address potentially dangerous conditions is demonstrated in a recent case from Jefferson Parish. In Nunnery v. City of Kenner (pdf), the plaintiff was working as a volunteer assistant volleyball coach at a local gym. Before practice began she noticed water collecting on the ground around the water fountain and brought it to the attention of the Gym Supervisor. Approximately an hour later, while dismantling the volleyball equipment, the plaintiff slipped and fell in the same general area where she had previously reported the standing water. According to the plaintiff, the water had spread from the fountain area from the time she originally reported it. After trial, Judge Donald Rowan found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded her $80,000 in general damages and over $16,000 in special damages. Finding that the standing water created a “dangerous condition” which had been reported to the city’s employee, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the finding of liability on the part of the City. The court, however, also found that the plaintiff “should have taken more care for her safety” given that she was aware of the condition and allocated 20% comparative fault to her.  

Take-Away: Even with the limitation of liability afforded under Louisiana Revised Statute 9:2800 (pdf), a public entity can still be held responsible where it clearly had actual or constructive notice of the condition causing the accident. Here, the fact that the water leak had been reported but not corrected in a timely manner was enough to impose liability although the appellate court was probably also correct in allocating some liability to the plaintiff given that she had been the one to report the condition in the first place.