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Trim Those Trees: Cities Are Not Protected By Sovereign Immunity

Piedra v. City of North Bay Village, __ So. 3d __, 2016 WL 2339857 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016)

Appellant’s son, 12-year-old “Piedra Jr.” and his friend were riding a motorized skateboard around the streets of the City of North Bay Village. Both boys were riding the motorized skateboard in a sitting or crouched position as they approached an intersection which was controlled by stop signs. They claimed to have stopped before entering the intersection. A truck driven by Dario Nanni arrived at the intersection along the adjacent street. He also claimed to have stopped before entering the intersection. Between the two streets was the Appellee City’s vegetation-planted intersection and property owner/Appellee Alfaro’s hedges. The boys testified that they briefly glimpsed Nanni’s car through a gap in the shrubbery between Alfaro’s hedge and the City’s planted vegetation. Nanni testified that he did not see the boys approach the intersection because the foliage was too high for him to see them sitting on the skateboard. Nanni’s car collided with the boys on the skateboard when both parties entered the intersection at the same time. Piedra Jr. suffered a broken leg. The police officer determined that the boy “was at fault as he was an unauthorized operator of a ‘motor vehicle,’ and because he was sitting on the skateboard could not be seen” by the truck driver. Piedra sued the truck driver for neglect but later voluntarily dismissed him. Piedra also sued the city for carelessly allowing a known hazardous condition to exist, the city’s landscaping maintenance contractor for negligent maintenance, and the owner of the property where the hedges were. The trial court granted summary judgement in favor of all defendants, but the appellate court reversed, stating “Where a governmental entity knowingly maintains an intersection right-of-way which dangerously obstructs the vision of motorists using the street in a manner not readily apparent to motorists, it is under a duty to warn of the danger or make safe the dangerous condition. “




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