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Sidewalks-Cases Summarized By Accident Lawyer

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Summarizes Cases on Sidewalks

Brien Roche

This page within Virginia Tort Case Law is a compilation of cases reported by the Virginia Supreme Court and summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of Sidewalks. For more information on sidewalk issues see the pages on Wikipedia.


2002 City of Richmond v. Holt, 264 Va. 101, 563 S.E.2d 690.

A municipality has constructive notice of a defect in a public way adjoining a street when defect has existed for such a period of time that the defect could have been discovered by the exercise of ordinary care. In this case, evidence established that hole in grassy walkway alongside public street existed for more than a year. The hole was between four to six inches deep and of such a size the plaintiff’s foot sank into the hole up to her ankle. The hole was obscured with grass covering it. Witness testified that hole could be seen if one looked directly down to the ground where the hole was located. This was sufficient to establish constructive notice of defect.

1996 City of Virginia Beach v. Flippen, 251 Va. 358, 467 S.E.2d 471.

City maintained sidewalks over private land that provided access to beach front. City in this instance is person in control of land or premises as contemplated by Va. Code § 29.1-509 and therefore is entitled to immunity extended by that statute.

1996 City of Suffolk v. Carter, 251 Va. 1, 464 S.E.2d 154.

Plaintiff fell on city sidewalks as a result of grade separation measuring one half of inch. As a matter of law, city is not liable. Decision cites another case from City of Virginia Beach with same conclusion where pedestrian fell on alleged sidewalk defect consisting of 1-inch height difference.

1989 Runyon v. Geldner, 237 Va. 460, 377 S.E.2d 456.

Plaintiff fell on driveway that had been coated with sealant. Plaintiff’s expert testified based on his inspection long after accident. No foundation laid to show that condition of driveway on day of accident was same as on date of inspection; therefore, testimony should not have been allowed.

1988 Rocky Mt. Shopping Center Assocs. v. Steagall, 235 Va. 636, 369 S.E.2d 193.

Plaintiff stepped into two- to three-inch depression that she said she could have seen if looking. Contributory negligence as matter of law.

1985 Medical Center Hosps. v. Sharpless, 229 Va. 496, 331 S.E.2d 405.

Duty owed by municipal corporation to sidewalk pedestrians is not necessarily same as in owner-invitee context. Two duties were identical in this instance as the law of the case. Plaintiff’s expert found expansion joint in which plaintiff caught her heel to be defective; it was 1 1/4 inches to 1½ inches wide. Other testimony on behalf of plaintiff was that two adjacent slabs were 1¼ inches different in elevation. As a matter of law there was no actionable negligence.

1984 Mary Washington Hosp. v. Gibson, 228 Va. 95, 319 S.E.2d 741.

Plaintiff offered an instruction dealing with defendant’s duty to repair and warn of defects in its sidewalks. These instructions more appropriately set forth duties owed by municipal corporations to members of public. Upon retrial, hospital’s duties, if any, to repair and to warn as well as plaintiff’s right, if any, to assume should be embodied in instructions in form that is more appropriate to owner invitee context.

1977 West v. City of Portsmouth, 217 Va. 734, 232 S.E.2d 763.

Plaintiff tripped and fell over water meter box in sidewalks. Plaintiff guilty of contributory negligence as matter of law as danger was open and obvious. Defense that plaintiff was distracted insufficient under circumstances.

1977 Votsis v. Ward’s Coffee Shop, Inc., 217 Va. 652, 231 S.E.2d 236.

Plaintiff tripped, fell and was injured on public sidewalk. City has positive and non-delegable duty to keep and maintain its streets and sidewalks in repair and safe condition for public travel. City is not insurer against injuries, but is liable for negligent failure to discharge duty. Liability of abutting property owner receiving benefit discussed.

1976 Newport News v. Anderson, 216 Va. 791, 223 S.E.2d 869.

Plaintiff fell on sidewalk at depression four inches in diameter and one half inch deep. Plaintiff caught her heel on depression. Defect was so slight it would not endanger travel in ordinary modes. Municipality not required to keep sidewalks perfectly level and even.

1974 Town of Hillsville v. Nester, 215 Va. 4, 205 S.E.2d 398.

Plaintiff fell on sidewalk on crack that was open and obvious. Plaintiff guilty of contributory negligence as matter of law.

1954 West v. City of Portsmouth, 196 Va. 510, 84 S.E.2d 503.

General requirements for recovery for injury due to defective street or sidewalks: (1) Defective condition; (2) Notice; unless, (a) defect created by municipality; (b) defect created by licensee under permit granted by municipality; (c) statute or charter provision provides otherwise; (3) Time to repair after notice; (4) Defect is cause of injury; (5) No contributory negligence; and (6) Notice of injury and cause must be given within time provided.

1953 Nolan v. City of Richmond, 194 Va. 943, 76 S.E.2d 126.

Clearly city is not insurer of persons using its streets and sidewalks, but there is duty resting on municipality to keep its streets and sidewalks in reasonably safe condition.

1952 Virginia Beach v. Starr, 194 Va. 34, 72 S.E.2d 239.

Where defect is open and obvious to persons using sidewalks it is their duty to observe defect.

1949 Hill v. City of Richmond, 189 Va. 576, 53 S.E.2d 810.

Plaintiff fell over depression in sidewalks. No actionable negligence. Defect too slight. Shaped like saucer, 4½ feet in diameter and four inches deep. Several cases cited.

1949 Commess v. Norfolk Gen. Hosp., 189 Va. 229, 52 S.E.2d 125.

Plaintiff tripped and fell over chain across walkway at night. Chain was placed in area which was poorly lit so that danger was not open and obvious.

1948 City of South Norfolk v. Dail, 187 Va. 495, 47 S.E.2d 405.

Plaintiff stepped in hole in sidewalk two feet in diameter and 2½ inches deep; no obstructions to her vision. Contributory negligence as matter of law.

1948 Walker v. Memorial Hosp., 187 Va. 5, 45 S.E.2d 898.

Businesses, landlords, carriers, or other inviter, in absence of unusual circumstances is permitted to await end of storm and reasonable time thereafter to remove ice and snow from outdoor area. Where storm has not finally terminated exercise of reasonable care does not require defendant to warn of result of weather. Mere slipperiness of sidewalk occasioned by ice or snow, not being accumulated so as to constitute obstruction, is not ordinarily such defect as will make city liable for damages occasioned thereby.

1945 Richmond v. McDonald, 183 Va. 694, 33 S.E.2d 186.

Streets must be kept in reasonably safe condition and it is not required that they be kept at perfectly level and even surface. Surveyor’s spike projecting 5/8 inches above surface of crosswalk is not actionable negligence.

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Sidewalks-Cases Summarized By Accident Lawyer

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