We have a new texting tort. Alexa Longueira, 15, was walking and texting on Staten Island when she plunged into the ground. She fell into an open manhole and ended up in the pitch black sewer. Her family is preparing to sue the city, which itself is investigating the incident.
As our own poster “Clueless” noted, she immediately texted “hlp am trppd n swr pls rscu me.”
The high school sophomore has a case. While she was negligent in texting and walking, the courts have previously ruled that cities must anticipate inattentive people or people with disabilities who may not see an open manhole or ditch. In Fletcher v. City of Aberdeen (1959), the city workers failed to put back barriers around an open hole and the court found that the city had to anticipate such individuals who cannot see such a danger. Likewise, Robinson v. Pioche, Bayerque & Co. (1855), a court found that the inebriation of an individual was not a defense for a city. In a statement that may fit this teenager’s case, the court held that “a drunken man is as much entitled to a safe street as a sober one, and much more in need of it.”
Recently, in another case a 67-year-old blind man plunged 25 feet down an elevator shaft to his death in his Bronx apartment building when the stepped into the open doors of an elevator without realizing that there was no elevator door.
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