A Superior Court jury has returned a $543,889 verdict in favor of a woman who sued Hartford after injuring her shoulder from falling on an uneven city sidewalk.
The jury deliberated for two and a half hours on Feb. 28 before returning its verdict in favor of 73-year-old Hartford resident Barbara Browdy. According to a November 2016 lawsuit filed in Hartford Superior Court, Browdy fell on a sidewalk near 2113 Main St. that was cracked, separated and uneven in a way that created a raised hump in the pavement.
The city argued that Browdy was at fault, and hoped to prove to the six-person jury that she deserved no damages.
“The matter really came down to whether the city or my client was at fault,” said Chris Flood, the attorney for Browdy and a partner in Middletown-based The Flood Law Firm. “There is the issue of sole proximate cause, which means that the plaintiff can’t be even 1 percent at fault. If the jury finds she is even 1 percent at fault, then she can’t win. That was a big battle in this case. The city maintained she should have seen the defect and avoided it.”
Browdy, who testified for about 90 minutes during the day-and-a-half trial, told jurors about herself and what happened when she fell in November 2014, Flood said.
“She was working full time doing clerical work for a health insurance company and was enjoying a rare day off,” Flood told the Connecticut Law Tribune. “She went to get her hair done and when leaving the salon, in walking to the bus stop, she fell on the sidewalk. She maintained she was walking straight ahead, as she always does.”
The jury heard from only two witnesses: Browdy and Michael Deane, a public works employee for the city, according to Flood.
Deane, Flood said, told the jurors that the city did not have the resources to inspect all of Hartford’s sidewalks.
“I think what swayed the jury was that the city was not pro-actively inspecting its sidewalks,” Flood said. “They admitted they did not allocate enough resources to properly inspect them and, as a result, my client was left with a horrific injury.”
Browdy, Flood said, fell forward. She put her left arm out to try to cushion the fall and in doing so fractured her arm and tore her shoulder. She also hit her face on the ground, Flood said.
Browdy ended up undergoing two shoulder surgeries: one to put plates and screws in and the second was a shoulder replacement surgery, Flood said.
“She was left with pretty severe mobility restrictions,” her attorney said. She can’t lift her left arm over her head and has no strength in her left arm. It also aches a lot.”
Browdy, who had $127,899 in medical expenses, had earlier settled with two other defendants—Roth Supply LLC and 2099-2013 Main Street—for $60,000.
The city has until March 20 to appeal the verdict to the Connecticut Appellate Court. Browdy will not see any money until all legal avenues have been exhausted.
Representing Hartford was Senior Assistant Corporation Counsel Jonathan Beamon, who declined to comment on Friday.
But in court documents the defense maintained Browdy was negligent and responsible for her own fall. Among other things, the city maintained Browdy failed to avoid the sidewalk defect, failed to watch where she was stepping, was inattentive to her surroundings, and “failed to make proper and reasonable use of her senses and faculties.”
The city also wrote that Browdy’s negligence exceeds any on the part of the city.