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MUNICIPAL LAW: Appellate Court reverses jury verdict for plaintiff on grounds that highway defect statute is exclusive remedy, even where alleged negligence of municipal employee creates defect

At trial, the plaintiff claimed that a City of New Haven snowplow truck struck and knocked off a manhole cover. The plaintiff’s vehicle struck an open manhole in the road, rendering it inoperable, and leaving the plaintiff with physical injuries. After a plaintiff’s verdict, the court denied the defendant’s posttrial motion to dismiss, stating in relevant part that the plaintiff’s allegations asserted claims for negligence against the defendant, and did not contain allegations for a defective highway claim pursuant to § 13a-149. On appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence the plaintiff introduced at trial showed that the cause of his injuries was the result of a “highway defect” within the meaning of §13a-149, and because the plaintiff did not comply with the notice requirements of the statute, the trial court improperly denied its posttrial motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Connecticut Appellate court notes that in an action against a municipality for damages resulting from a highway defect, § 13a-149 is the plaintiff’s exclusive remedy. The relevant statute requires the plaintiff to give the municipality notice within 90 days of an accident. The issue examined by the Appellate Court is whether the trial court properly determined, as a matter of law, that the condition that caused the injuries was not a highway defect within the ambit of § 13a-149. In its review of the record, the Appellate Court finds that the undisputed facts conclusively establish, as a matter of law, that the condition that caused the plaintiff’s injuries was a highway defect within the purview of § 13a-149. The Appellate Court finds that even if a plaintiff’s cause of action does not specifically allege damages under §13a-149, the plaintiff’s pleadings, affidavits, and motions can bring the cause of action within the purview of the statute. The court notes that a municipality may be liable under the applicable highway defect statute, despite the fact that the defect was created by the negligence of a third party, in this case the municipal snowplow driver. In its conclusion, the court finds that the plaintiff’s exclusive remedy was pursuant to the highway defect statute. The plaintiff was obligated to comply with the notice provisions of § 13a-149 in order for the Superior Court to have jurisdiction over his action. Because the plaintiff failed to do so, the Appellate Court holds that the trial court improperly denied the defendant’s posttrial motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s action. Dobie v. City of New Haven, 204 Conn. App. 583 (2021)