Earlier this month, a jury in Maryland awarded $3.3 million to the family of Kelay Smith as a result of a wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit was against the State of Maryland for not having a sidewalk along a stretch of the road where other pedestrians had been struck by cars and died in the past. What makes this case even more tragic is the fact that Smith was five months pregnant at the time of the accident. She and her unborn child died shortly after at a hospital near where she was hit. As a Plantation Wrongful Death Attorney, this case truly breaks my heart and I feel so bad for this woman’s family. The pedestrian accident lawsuit reportedly resulted in an award of $2.5 million to Smith’s daughter, who was 2 years old at the time of the accident, and an additional $800,000 to Smith’s mother.
As a Plantation Wrongful Death Attorney, I agree with most of the allegations in this case. The wrongful death lawsuit also alleged that Smith’s death could have been avoided if there was a sidewalk to prevent pedestrian accidents.
This particular pedestrian accident was at least the fourth fatality on that same portion of the road in 2008 alone. It seems readily apparent that the government should have made the necessary safety improvements, given the likelihood that these pedestrian accidents would keep occurring. Unfortunately, in Florida there are some very specific and archaic limitations that could prevent a similar outcome. These limitations may prevent a Florida court from finding that a Florida municipality would have had a duty to install a sidewalk or guard rails or some combination of safety measures for pedestrians. Instead, the court would impose a duty to properly maintain them, only if those measures were installed and in disrepair.
Therefore, in Florida, personal injury lawsuits against the government can be very tricky to navigate. As a result of the previous pedestrian deaths, it would have been reasonable to expect additional accidents or deaths. Unfortunately, unlike in Maryland, the State of Florida may not have been liable under the same allegations even though the government should have foreseen this hazard and made the necessary improvements to protect its people.