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MUNICIPAL LAW: Appellate Court holds that defective highway claim against BOE employee barred

MUNICIPAL LAW: Appellate Court Holds That Defective Highway Claim Against BOE Employee Barred

The plaintiff, a police officer, alleged that he sustained injuries while proceeding to his assigned post to direct traffic, when his cruiser collided with a winch cable running across a roadway in Middletown.  Suit was brought against several defendants, including a Middletown Board of Education employee who was alleged to have told other defendants to take actions which resulted in the winch cable being stretched across the roadway.  The Superior Court granted a Motion to Dismiss the claim against the employee.

On appeal, the Appellate Court affirms.  Pursuant to prior case law, Connecticut appellate courts hold that the defective highway statute provides the exclusive remedy for claims against municipalities resulting from highway defects.  The Appellate Court notes that there was no dispute as to whether a highway defect existed in the case before it.  The Appellate Court rejects the plaintiff’s claim that for the purposes of the defective highway statute, an employee of a Board of Education does not qualify as an employee of the municipality.

“We acknowledge the plaintiff’s argument that there is a distinction between the City and its Board of Education, and that, in certain contexts, the distinction between the City and the Board is significant.  Nonetheless, for purposes of the present inquiry concerning the highway defect statute, the allegations of the plaintiff’s complaint … establish that the defendant was acting as an employee of the City during the events at issue…. [The plaintiff alleged that the defendant] ‘was an employee of the Board of Education of the City of Middletown and was acting in the scope of that employment.’”

Because the claim arose out of the alleged negligence of a municipal employee while acting within the scope of his employment, and because the claim is premised on the existence of a highway defect, the defective highway statute provides the exclusive remedy and the trial court properly dismissed the claim against the employee.

Stroud v. Mid-Town Tire and Supply, Inc., AC 34946 (Dec. 3, 2013)

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