2015 Connecticut General Statutes
Title 13a - Highways and Bridges
Chapter 238 - Highway Construction and Maintenance
Section 13a-144 - Damages for injuries sustained on state highways or sidewalks.

CT Gen Stat § 13a-144 (2015) What's This?

Any person injured in person or property through the neglect or default of the state or any of its employees by means of any defective highway, bridge or sidewalk which it is the duty of the Commissioner of Transportation to keep in repair, or by reason of the lack of any railing or fence on the side of such bridge or part of such road which may be raised above the adjoining ground so as to be unsafe for travel or, in case of the death of any person by reason of any such neglect or default, the executor or administrator of such person, may bring a civil action to recover damages sustained thereby against the commissioner in the Superior Court. No such action shall be brought except within two years from the date of such injury, nor unless notice of such injury and a general description of the same and of the cause thereof and of the time and place of its occurrence has been given in writing within ninety days thereafter to the commissioner. Such action shall be tried to the court or jury, and such portion of the amount of the judgment rendered therein as exceeds any amount paid to the plaintiff prior thereto under insurance liability policies held by the state shall, upon the filing with the Comptroller of a certified copy of such judgment, be paid by the state out of the appropriation for the commissioner for repair of highways; but no costs or judgment fee in any such action shall be taxed against the defendant. This section shall not be construed so as to relieve any contractor or other person, through whose neglect or default any such injury may have occurred, from liability to the state; and, upon payment by the Comptroller of any judgment rendered under the provisions of this section, the state shall be subrogated to the rights of such injured person to recover from any such contractor or other person an amount equal to the judgment it has so paid. The commissioner, with the approval of the Attorney General and the consent of the court before which any such action is pending, may make an offer of judgment in settlement of any such claim. The commissioner and the state shall not be liable in damages for injury to person or property when such injury occurred on any highway or part thereof abandoned by the state or on any portion of a highway not a state highway but connecting with or crossing a state highway, which portion is not within the traveled portion of such state highway. The requirement of notice specified in this section shall be deemed complied with if an action is commenced, by a writ and complaint setting forth the injury and a general description of the same and of the cause thereof and of the time and place of its occurrence, within the time limited for the giving of such notice.

(1949 Rev., S. 2201; 1953, 1955, S. 1193d; 1958 Rev., S. 13-87; 1963, P.A. 226, S. 144; February, 1965, P.A. 574, S. 50; 1967, P.A. 246; 414; 1969, P.A. 768, S. 108; 1971, P.A. 38, S. 1; P.A. 74-183, S. 201, 291; P.A. 76-222, S. 1; 76-436, S. 172, 681.)

History: 1963 act replaced previous provisions: See title history; 1965 act changed highways included in this section from those in the state highway system to those which the commissioner must keep in repair; 1967 acts included reference to actions in circuit court and limited payments from highway fund to the amount which “exceeds any amount paid to the plaintiff ... under insurance liability policies held by the state”; 1969 act substituted commissioner of transportation for highway department; 1971 act changed deadline for bringing action from one to two years from date of injury and required that notice to commissioner be in writing; P.A. 74-183 deleted reference to actions in circuit courts; P.A. 76-222 changed deadline for notice to commissioner from 60 to 90 days after injury; P.A. 76-436 deleted reference to actions in court of common pleas, effective July 1, 1978.

Applies to trunk line and state aid roads. 94 C. 231, 592. Does not affect statutory liability of street railway company. Id., 238. State has recovery over against street railway company. Id., 239. Imposes same liability for defective highways on highway commissioner as imposed by Sec. 13a-149 on towns. Id., 542; 105 C. 360; 116 C. 243; 129 C. 259. For shoulders as part of traveled portion of highway. 108 C. 196. State not liable for defect in sidewalk on side of trunk line highway within town. 109 C. 336. Same duty as to fences as that required of towns by Sec. 13a-111. 110 C. 76. Actual or constructive notice and opportunity to remedy defect a prerequisite of liability. 116 C. 243; 129 C. 259. Highway commissioner’s duty to erect fences at raised points to be guided by standard of reasonable safety under the circumstances. 121 C. 88, 94. Cited. Id., 478. In action for damages caused by defective bridge, test of liability is whether state exercised reasonable care. Id., 611. Cause of action is for breach of statutory duty. Id., 613. Res ipsa loquitur held not to apply to defective bridge. Id., 614. Cited. 122 C. 92; 124 C. 677. Variation in alignment of fences a defect. 130 C. 30. Suspension of highway commissioner does not abate action. Id., 34. Shoulders of state highway are under control of commissioner. Id., 87. Sec. 13a-145, if complied with, takes away right of action under this section. Id., 621. Purpose of notice; its adequacy generally for the jury. 134 C. 223. In computing 60-day period, date of injury is excluded and 60th day is final day on which notice must be received. Id., 235. A defect outside the traveled path in a highway may give rise to an action; a person is not obliged to remain seated in a vehicle to get benefit of statute. 137 C. 285. Requirements of notice within 60 days and suit within 1 year do not pertain only to remedy; compliance with both conditions is essential to very existence of cause of action. 138 C. 363. Notice insufficient as matter of law. 139 C. 254. A complaint alleging necessary detail is notice even though withdrawn. Id., 554. Cited. 144 C. 282. Plaintiff struck by defective directional sign under control of highway commissioner while walking on sidewalk within limits of trunk line highway but not under control of commissioner to repair; held complaint did not state a cause of action as statutory liability of highway commissioner exists only in the case of a traveler on a highway or sidewalk which it is commissioner’s duty to keep in repair. 148 C. 355. Cited. 150 C. 455. Action maintainable under statute does not waive state’s immunity to suit so as to allow count in nuisance. 151 C. 259. To recover under section, plaintiff must prove either that defendant had actual notice of defect or that it existed for sufficient time so defendant would have known of it. 158 C. 116. Plan of construction of highway could not be challenged as neglect under section. 159 C. 150. Overhanging tree limb which did not obstruct or hinder travel was not a “defect” in the highway. 177 C. 268. Where Commissioner of Transportation has legal duty to maintain a particular highway, he is liable for injuries occurring caused by negligence in performance of that duty. 186 C. 300. Cited. 198 C. 322; Id., 413; 199 C. 651. No words in statute restricting scope of phrase “the state or any of its employees” to Department of Transportation personnel only. 202 C. 158. Cited. 205 C. 542; 209 C. 310; 211 C. 370; 212 C. 381; 213 C. 126. Highway defect as sole approximate cause of injury remains the standard in determining liability under statute. Id., 307. Liability of commissioner for accidents caused by defective highways discussed. Id., 446. Cited. 214 C. 464; 217 C. 281; 221 C. 346; 223 C. 14. Notice inadequate as a matter of law discussed. 224 C. 23. Cited. 225 C. 177. Application of general verdict rule discussed; judgment of appellate court in 27 CA 439 reversed. Id., 782. Cited. Id., 904; 228 C. 343. Court decided doctrine of sovereign immunity applied; judgment of Appellate Court in 29 CA 565 reversed. 228 C. 358. Cited. 232 C. 392; 239 C. 265. In an action against commissioner, a personal injury occurring in a parking lot within state right-of-way line and in public rest area connected to a highway may be compensable under statute. 248 C. 419. In an action brought under section where a party offers evidence to prove constructive notice of a defect rather than the defect itself, the standard of attenuated similarity is appropriate. 255 C. 670. With respect to degree of precision required of claimant in describing the place of injury, reasonable definiteness is all that can be expected or required; notice must provide sufficient information as to the injury, its cause and the time and place of its occurrence to permit commissioner to gather information about the case intelligently; judgment of Appellate Court in 78 CA 796 reversed. 273 C. 1. Rocks and debris falling on state highway from ledge above but not in roadway or so close to it to actually obstruct or impede travel not highway defect or cognizable design defect for purposes of statute. 274 C. 262. Plan of design providing for steep downhill grade of highway, in combination with absence of adequate warning signs and tangible safety measures, did not render highway defective within meaning of section. 313 C. 158. Defective highway claim based on design of Route 44 across Avon Mountain barred by sovereign immunity because it failed to state a cause of action under section. Id., 197.

Cited. 4 CA 30; 5 CA 121; Id., 663; Id., 695; 6 CA 300; 7 CA 561; 8 CA 169; 12 CA 449; 18 CA 677; 21 CA 516; Id., 633; 23 CA 198; Id., 735; 25 CA 67; Id., 217; Id., 421; judgment reversed, see 222 C. 299; 26 CA 74; Id., 407; 27 CA 439; judgment reversed, see 225 C. 782; Id., 734; 28 CA 449; 29 CA 565; judgment reversed, see 228 C. 358; Id., 791; 30 CA 594; 31 CA 752; 33 CA 65; 36 CA 211; 37 CA 551; 44 CA 597; Id., 651. Court found that plaintiff’s notice sufficiently identified the location of her fall so as to permit commissioner to gather information about the allegedly defective condition and that the issue of adequacy of plaintiff’s notice was a question of fact for the jury. 70 CA 21. It is plaintiff’s burden to prove each of the elements under statute, and failure to prove any element will preclude a finding of liability under statute. 72 CA 64. Phrase “place of its occurrence” refers to prior phrase “such injury”, and therefore it is the place of injury that must be described in required notice; the legal standard is not the exact geodetic place of injury; however, that standard is not satisfied when the place of injury is described as two distinct places. 78 CA 796; judgment reversed, see 273 C. 1. Plaintiff’s notice of claim is insufficient because it fails to specify the precise nature of the claimed defect; it is not enough that defendant knows the exact location of the defect when the precise nature of the defect is unspecified and the complaint cannot be considered in conjunction with the notice because the complaint was filed beyond the 90-day period set forth in section. 132 CA 750. Court lacks jurisdiction to hear claim against state where notice informed commissioner only of suit against town. 142 CA 785. A claim related to an alleged defect in the plan pursuant to which a highway was constructed, rather than a claim that a defect in such plan or design resulted in an otherwise actionable hazard that was in or near the roadway and which actually obstructed travel, is precluded. Id., 826. Plaintiff failed to satisfy statutory requirement where the notice to defendant provided locations of defects that either did not exist or could not have been geographically accurate. 152 CA 560.

Recovery in action brought under former statute limited to $10,000. 1 CS 136. Responsibility of third person to perform duty of state is no defense in suit against the state; it is only the remedy of the state in a suit against third persons. 5 CS 259. Cited. 7 CS 95. Analogous to Sec. 13a-149. Id., 143; 10 CS 521. Cited. 7 CS 426; 8 CS 450. Defect must be sole cause of the damage. 12 CS 14. Cited. 15 CS 31. Commencement of action not an alternative to giving notice. 17 CS 419. Applies to pedestrian as well as vehicular traffic; no distinction between ice and snow and other defects; sidewalks built within limits of state highways are responsibility of town. 18 CS 499. Adequacy of notice is a question of fact. 19 CS 44. Cited. Id., 100. Right of action statutory; no action maintainable for nuisance. Id., 478. No right of recovery to an abutting landowner for damages from a defective highway. 20 CS 142. No presumption of the receipt of a notice by a certain day arises from the mere dating of the notice; plaintiff must allege facts which, if proved, will show that highway commissioner actually received the statutory notice within 60 days of occurrence of injury. 22 CS 468. History discussed; comparison with Sec. 13a-149; mere statement in plaintiff’s notice of injury to knee not sufficient. 23 CS 113. Cited. Id., 152. A right of action against highway commissioner is maintainable, if at all, only under section and no right exists in the domain of alleged nuisance. 24 CS 159. Plaintiff is required by rule to recite in the complaint or annex thereto the notice given commissioner. 25 CS 358. To be sufficient notice, must satisfy purpose of notice requirement; it must furnish commissioner with such information as would enable him to make timely investigation of facts upon which claim for damages is being made. Id., 359, 360. Commissioner liable for defect at intersection of state and nonstate highway. 29 CS 365. Cited. 37 CS 710. Under section, plaintiff is authorized to maintain action for loss of consortium. 40 CS 194. Cited. 41 CS 425; 44 CS 389.

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