Reyes v. City of Hartford
Contributory negligence, which must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence, may constitute a defense to allegations that a plaintiff slipped and fell on a defective sidewalk. The plaintiff, Elba Reyes, alleged that she worked as a housekeeper and cook for an elderly individual who resided on Sumner Street in Hartford and tripped and fell while carrying bags of groceries, en route to Sumner Street. The plaintiff sued the City of Hartford, alleging that the sidewalk was defective. The City of Hartford filed a special defense, arguing that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent and failed to use reasonable care while walking on the sidewalk. At a trial to the court, the plaintiff was responsible to prove her allegations, by a preponderance of the evidence. The court found that the plaintiff's testimony lacked credibility. In response to interrogatories, the plaintiff previously had asserted that she remained in bed to recover, approximately two weeks after the slip and fall. The City of Hartford introduced exhibits that established that after the April 5, 2009, slip and fall, the plaintiff worked on April 8, 10, 13, 15, 17 and 20. The court was not persuaded that the plaintiff remained in bed approximately two weeks, as alleged. The court also found that during the two months prior to the slip and fall, the plaintiff apparently had walked the same route approximately 26 times. "[W]alking 26 times over the same area in which she fell," wrote the court, "it is a reasonable conclusion that she was aware of the defect and did not use reasonable care to avoid that defect." The court found that the city proved its special defense of contributory negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. The City of Hartford's conduct did not constitute the sole proximate cause of the plaintiff's slip and fall. There also was no evidence that the city received actual or constructive notice of the alleged defect and the opportunity to remedy it. The court granted judgment to the city.