Bulpitt v. Town of Hamden
A municipal "greenway" that is open to the public may qualify as a "road," for purposes of the defective-road statute, Connecticut General Statutes §13a-149, even if the greenway remains closed at night. In July 2011, the plaintiff, Karen Bulpitt, allegedly was on her bicycle on the Farmington Canal Greenway in Hamden, when the bicycle ran into a pothole, and the plaintiff fell. Bulpitt sued the Town of Hamden, pursuant to the defective-road statute, C.G.S. §13a-149. The municipality moved for summary judgment and argued that the Farmington Canal Greenway does not qualify as a "road," for purposes of the defective-road statute, because it is closed at night. John Torgerson, the director of the municipal Parks Department, wrote in an affidavit that the Farmington Canal Greenway is "closed to the public one half hour after sunset until one half hour after dawn the following morning." C.G.S. §13a-149, which was initially promulgated in 1672, currently provides, "Any person injured in person or property by means of a defective road or bridge may recover damages from the party bound to keep it in repair." A road is a "way open to the use of the public," pursuant to Robinson v. Faulkner, a 1972 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. When ruling if a path is a "public way," courts may consider whether "every traveler has an equal right in it with every other traveler," pursuant to Laufer v. Bridgeport Traction Co., an 1897 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. The hours that a way is open do not affect whether it is public. The court rejected the municipality's argument that the Farmington Canal Greenway does not qualify as a "road," for purposes of the defective-road statute, because it is closed at night. Seventeenth century roads, which lacked artificial lights, were difficult to travel at night. "A Connecticut resident of 1672 transported by a time machine to modern-day Connecticut," wrote the Superior Court, "would look upon the Twenty-First Century Greenway as a veritable Champs-Elysees." The court denied the municipality's motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's count alleging that the municipality violated the defective-road statute.