2015 Connecticut General Statutes
Title 13a - Highways and Bridges
Chapter 238 - Highway Construction and Maintenance
Section 13a-149 - Damages for injuries by means of defective roads and bridges.

CT Gen Stat § 13a-149 (2015) What's This?

Any person injured in person or property by means of a defective road or bridge may recover damages from the party bound to keep it in repair. No action for any such injury sustained on or after October 1, 1982, shall be brought except within two years from the date of such injury. No action for any such injury shall be maintained against any town, city, corporation or borough, unless written 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, shall, within ninety days thereafter be given to a selectman or the clerk of such town, or to the clerk of such city or borough, or to the secretary or treasurer of such corporation. If the injury has been caused by a structure legally placed on such road by a railroad company, it, and not the party bound to keep the road in repair, shall be liable therefor. No notice given under the provisions of this section shall be held invalid or insufficient by reason of an inaccuracy in describing the injury or in stating the time, place or cause of its occurrence, if it appears that there was no intention to mislead or that such town, city, corporation or borough was not in fact misled thereby.

(1949 Rev., S. 2126; 1951, S. 1180d; 1958 Rev., S. 13-11; 1959, P.A. 372; 1963, P.A. 226, S. 149; P.A. 76-222, S. 2; P.A. 82-5; P.A. 86-338, S. 14.)

History: 1959 act extended time for giving notice of injury due to snow and ice from 10 to 30 days; 1963 act replaced previous provisions: See title history; P.A. 76-222 changed deadline for notice to town officer from 60 to 90 days after injury and deleted special provision re injury from defect caused by ice and/or snow; P.A. 82-5 required that actions for injuries sustained on or after October 1, 1982, be brought within two years of the injury; P.A. 86-338 deleted provision which exempted an injured person from the requirement of giving written notice if an action is commenced by complaint setting forth the same information as required in the notice within the time limited for the giving of such notice.

See Sec. 7-163a re municipal liability for ice and snow on public sidewalks.

See Sec. 7-308 re municipalities’ assumption of liability for damages caused by firemen.

Defects in bridges. 1 R. 270; Id., 448; 2 R. 436. Liability of turnpike company. 7 C. 86. No liability for consequential damage. 17 C. 475; 66 C. 360. Where turnpike company has been dissolved. 18 C. 32. Action for death due to highway defect survives; not a penal statute within meaning of Sec. 52-599. 22 C. 80. Allegation of injury to person and property joinable in one count; plaintiff’s use of defective materials in himself repairing bridge. Id., 290. Plaintiff may prove his peril and danger to enhance his damages. Id.; 27 C. 300. Burden of proof. 24 C. 491. Basis of damages; when punitive allowed. Id.; 47 C. 74. No liability for secret defects. 27 C. 300. Extent of protection required; degree of care. Id.; 78 C. 396; 79 C. 385; 80 C. 291; 82 C. 530. Sidewalks. 30 C. 118; 40 C. 377; Id., 406; Id., 456; 78 C. 396; 79 C. 44. Knowledge question of fact. 30 C. 118; 94 C. 693; 104 C. 94. Objects calculated to frighten horses. 30 C. 129; 39 C. 381; Id., 435. Highways by dedication. 31 C. 308; 72 C. 231; 73 C. 359; Id., 576; 74 C. 360. Admissibility of evidence that others safely crossed sidewalk. 33 C. 57; 89 C. 24. Injury from branch of tree falling in road not recoverable; 34 C. 9; 85 C. 128; so from weight falling from flagpole. 34 C. 136. Duty to give warning of dangerous conditions. 36 C. 320; 37 C. 298; 67 C. 428; 69 C. 103; 70 C. 122. Whether defect exists is question of fact. 37 C. 414; 118 C. 288; 128 C. 272. Ice on sidewalks. 37 C. 615; 44 C. 117; 51 C. 412; 104 C. 85. When knowledge of defect presumed. 39 C. 228; 40 C. 375; 72 C. 672; 79 C. 385; 89 C. 24; 118 C. 288; 128 C. 272. Failure in duty question of fact. 39 C. 439; 46 C. 218; 67 C. 433; 69 C. 354; 72 C. 680; 75 C. 289; 85 C. 693. Liability of town for defect in borough. 40 C. 205. Accident or negligence of fellow traveler contributing to injury. Id., 238; 71 C. 697; 75 C. 291; 81 C. 241; 86 C. 506; 104 C. 88. Where defendant causes defect. 40 C. 460; 67 C. 434; 98 C. 85. Special damage must be alleged. 43 C. 565. Waiver of notice. 46 C. 61. Abandonment of road by turnpike company. Id., 216. Railroad “structures”. Id., 217; 50 C. 216; 54 C. 589; 74 C. 475. Sufficiency of notice. 46 C. 264; 50 C. 497; 51 C. 421; 53 C. 212; 58 C. 45; 59 C. 219, 225; 63 C. 268; 64 C. 376; 67 C. 437; 72 C. 673; 73 C. 312; 74 C. 437; 81 C. 300; 86 C. 45; 91 C. 181; 92 C. 552; 98 C. 312. Carrying too heavy a load. 47 C. 73; 91 C. 542. Nuisance distinguished. 48 C. 220. Ice and snow on highway. Id., 467; 49 C. 134. Abutting owner not liable for defect in sidewalk. 48 C. 532; 102 C. 401; 108 C. 200. Open basement descent held not a defect in sidewalk. 50 C. 536. Notice in case of railway bound to repair. 54 C. 9; 64 C. 381; 75 C. 693. Liability of borough. 65 C. 311; 77 C. 308. One whose negligence contributes to injury cannot recover. 66 C. 36; 79 C. 42; 82 C. 527; 86 C. 506; 89 C. 24; 98 C. 86; 103 C. 605. One may use highway little traveled. 66 C. 36. Nature of liability. Id., 360; 71 C. 686; 75 C. 291; 84 C. 657; 103 C. 605; 104 C. 88; 108 C. 555. Statutory notice; necessity. 66 C. 387; 81 C. 274; Id., 287. Defect in plan of street. 69 C. 353; 81 C. 67. Amending complaint after hearing in damages. 69 C. 554. Dangerous draw. Id., 651. Knowledge of policeman. 70 C. 115; 94 C. 692; 118 C. 288. Stumbling as excuse. 70 C. 554. Several defects may be alleged in one complaint. 72 C. 667. Reasonable obstructions not defects. 73 C. 199; 75 C. 349; 76 C. 311; 78 C. 145; 82 C. 527; 89 C. 343. Action by town against person causing defect. 74 C. 152; 91 C. 255. Liability of city. 74 C. 360; 80 C. 296; 85 C. 693. Evidence as to damage. 74 C. 475. Duty to provide against results of fright of ordinarily gentle horse. 75 C. 288. Duty to erect fence; Sec. 13a-111 distinguished. Id.; 81 C. 65; 89 C. 24; 105 C. 361. Town not liable where some other party is. 75 C. 693. Historical review of law. Id., 694; 81 C. 68. Statute does not apply to wrongful exclusion from highway. 76 C. 311. Duty extends to highway actually in use. 78 C. 62. Action against both town and railway. 79 C. 379; 103 C. 121. Crosswalks. 79 C. 659. One departing from traveled way for his own convenience cannot recover. 80 C. 154; 91 C. 542. Elements necessary to support recovery. 81 C. 66; 104 C. 87; 108 C. 555. Giving of notice must be alleged in complaint. 81 C. 274; 85 C. 221; 106 C. 62. Purpose of law is protection of travelers. 81 C. 393; 88 C. 151. Illegal act of person injured as debarring remedy. 82 C. 663. Action may lie at common law, and then notice not necessary. 84 C. 349; Id., 654; 94 C. 231. Burden of proof. 86 C. 506. Excavation outside limits of highway. 89 C. 24. Negligence of municipality in allowing minor defect to exist is a question of fact. 92 C. 365. Liability of municipality where alleged defect is caused by negligence of licensee excavating under a permit. Id., 367. Snow and ice on sidewalk. 93 C. 548; Id., 625. Knowledge of city must consist of knowledge of precise defect. Id., 628. Obligation of street railway company operating on trunk line highway. 94 C. 237. Right of town to remove shade tree in highway but outside traveled part. Id., 439. How great a part of width must be kept open for travel; covered tile drain near side of road giving way under weight of motor truck. Id., 538. Limitations of doctrine of no liability for error in plan. Id., 539. Knowledge of defect. Id., 542. Municipality’s right of recovery over does not accrue until its liability has been finally adjudicated. Id., 667. Evidence of other accidents to show municipality’s knowledge. Id., 693. Contributory negligence in having defective lights on automobile; 10-day notice required where automobile runs into pile of ice and snow. 96 C. 7. Excavation in traveled part of highway; contributory negligence where accident happens in sunlight. 98 C. 84. Whether defect counted on in complaint is same as that described in statutory notice is a question for the court. Id., 314. Platform extending into highway; nuisance. Id., 524. Admissibility of evidence of condition of sidewalk before accident. 104 C. 95. Liability of state for defect in trunk line highway is same as that of town in an ordinary road. 105 C. 359. Embankment 6 feet from traveled part of highway may be a defect. Id., 361. Liability in case of state aid highway. Id., 596. Silent policeman not itself a defect, but may become so if allowed to remain out of position. Id., 694. Tree protruding over traveled part of road. 106 C. 63. Definition of defect in highway. Id.; Id., 380. Fire hose left across sidewalk to guard against rekindling of fire not a defect. Id., 381. Complaint containing allegations showing notice was not given within statutory period is demurrable; whether period for giving notice runs before existence of injury could be known, quaere. Id., 394. Indemnification of city of New Haven by abutting owner under special charter provision. 108 C. 70. Whether shoulders of road are within “traveled portion of highway”, quaere. Id., 196. Abutting owner’s liability for nuisance on sidewalk or in proximity thereto; action against both abutting owner and municipality. Id., 200. When act of third party in sanding sidewalk inures to benefit of municipality. Id., 559. Placing of catch basin and cover is a governmental function but if they create condition rendering street not reasonably safe for public travel, they may be defect within statute. 109 C. 324, 327; 118 C. 427. State not liable for defect in sidewalk on side of trunk line highway within town. 109 C. 336. Unsafe wall abutting sidewalk is not defect within statute. Id., 668. Cited. 110 C. 77. Whether notices of injury were served and whether they were intended to be or were misleading to city are questions of fact. 113 C. 145. Cited. 115 C. 385; Id., 716. Duty of city is not to exercise reasonable care to make streets entirely safe, but only to make them reasonably safe. 116 C. 568; 124 C. 284. Notice that decedent fell “upon a sidewalk of a highway known as North Elm Street” is insufficient description. 117 C. 70. Notice failing entirely to state cause of injury is invalid; knowledge of facts by officers of city will not obviate necessity of compliance with statute. Id., 401. Fundamental test is whether defect was sole cause in producing damage; notice of defect may be imputed to city after passage of time. 118 C. 288; 128 C. 272. Defect must be sole and essential cause of injury; if negligence of plaintiff’s intestate or of third party is also a proximate cause, no recovery. 118 C. 480; 124 C. 463. Where injury is result of defect combined with accident or natural cause, municipality is liable unless accident or natural cause was so direct and separate as to be sole proximate cause. 119 C. 168. Liability is not based on negligence, but on breach of statutory duty; Sec. 52-114 does not apply. Id., 479; 133 C. 246. City not liable for nuisance where sidewalk on grade became dangerous only when icy and city could do nothing practicable by way of construction to make it more safe. 120 C. 499. Purpose and elements of notice; entire absence of general description of injury is fatal. Id., 577. Cited. 121 C. 613. Notice giving cause as “defective sidewalk”, without describing defect, is sufficient. 123 C. 152. Remedy for injuries caused by snow and ice on sidewalk is against city, not abutting owner. Id., 453. “Do not know full extent of my injuries” is insufficient description. Id., 685. Special law validating defective notice held constitutional. 124 C. 183. What constitutes a defect; small cavity at edge of walk not. Id., 283. Cited. Id., 677. Statute affords exclusive remedy for defects due to neglect rather than positive act of municipality, whether or not defect is a nuisance; apart from statute, municipality is liable for condition it created by positive act on highway amounting to nuisance. 126 C. 402; 131 C. 691; 133 C. 245. 60-day notice held not a condition precedent where action was based on negligence of railroad company at common law in permitting dangerous condition on bridge. 126 C. 558. “Got hurt” is insufficient description. 127 C. 711. Hidden defect; constructive notice and duty of city to inspect. 128 C. 464. Failure to warn or safeguard against danger from flagstone upheaved by hurricane constituted violation of statutory duty, when city had ample means and opportunity. Id., 483. Cited. Id., 710; 129 C. 259. Jury to say if municipality should make fence sufficient to guard against skidding; effect on duty of city of failure of railway company to make rails safe. Id., 699. Town has no duty to keep in repair shoulders of state highway used by public as footpath. 130 C. 84. Section applies to highway by dedication; common convenience and necessity with respect to establishment of highway reviewed. Id., 298. Where plaintiff slipped on ice which had filled up long-existing defect, city not liable on ground defect was cause of plaintiff’s fall. Id., 410; 131 C. 239. Municipality not liable for negligence in performing function of construction and maintenance, but for defective condition which is proximate cause of injury; length of time defect in sidewalk must have existed in order to charge municipality with notice is question of fact. Id. Notice alleging “bruises on other parts of legs and body” inaccurate, but not a total failure of description preventing recovery for fracture of spine. Id., 430. Cited. 132 C. 395. City not liable where maintenance of nuisance by or negligence of another is a proximate cause of injury which concurred with sidewalk defect to bring it about. 134 C. 89. Duty of plaintiff to recite statutory notice given in complaint or to annex it thereto. Id., 569. Defect not too slight as matter of law to justify an award of damages; where hole was made and maintained by state, failure of city to repair was not sole proximate cause. Id., 686. Bottle of syrup on walk for 45 minutes does not warrant finding of constructive notice. Id., 694. Whether a condition of highway constitutes defect must be determined in each case upon the basis of its particular circumstances. 135 C. 469. From photographs of raised flagstone in sidewalk and other evidence, jury might reasonably have found that defendant had notice of defect. Id., 473. Elapsed time insufficient as a matter of law to sustain a finding of constructive notice and an opportunity of remedying the condition. Id., 484. Sidewalk within boundaries of state highway; where there was no finding that sidewalk was constructed by state it was held that, as between town and state, the town was liable for plaintiff’s injuries. Id., 619. When city assumes control of sidewalks, it must exercise reasonable care to keep them in a reasonably safe condition. 136 C. 553. Cited. 137 C. 288. Statute is designed to protect travelers only; provides no right of recovery to an abutting landowner for damage from a defective highway. 138 C. 116. Cited. Id., 367; 139 C. 256; 140 C. 279. Constructive notice. 141 C. 126. Cited. 144 C. 282. Breach of duty on part of municipality must be shown. Id., 739. Special act of legislature validating notice given municipality does not constitute breach of cooperation clause in insurance policy by municipality. 145 C. 368. Unlike most negligence actions, plaintiff has burden of proving due care for action brought under statute. 147 C. 149. If certain portions of street are devoted to purpose other than travel, travelers leaving way provided for them and attempting to cross such reserved portions may not assume such portions are free from danger or unusual conditions. 148 C. 349. Ordinarily, the length of time a defect in a sidewalk must exist in order to charge a municipality with notice of its existence is a question of fact; defect must have existed for such a length of time that the city was charged with notice of it and had a reasonable opportunity to remedy the defect. Id., 548. What constitutes defect discussed. 150 C. 514. Where statutory notice relied solely on accumulated water, as distinguished from snow and ice, as the claimed defective condition and cause of the accident, and plaintiff testified that he actually lost control of his car on a film of ice, he cannot recover from the city. 151 C. 343. Cited. 153 C. 439; 159 C. 150; 162 C. 295; 167 C. 509. Overhanging tree limb which did not obstruct or hinder travel was not a “defect” in the highway. 177 C. 268. Cited. 183 C. 473. Sec. 52-572h does not apply to actions for personal injuries based on this statute; liability of defendant under statute is for breach of statutory duty and does not arise from negligence. 184 C. 205. Cited. 186 C. 229; Id., 300; Id., 692. Special act limiting liability of New Britain could not stand where clear policy statement in this section that municipal liability for damages should not be limited. 193 C. 589. Cited. 196 C. 509; 211 C. 370; 213 C. 307; Id., 446; 214 C. 1; 218 C. 1; 219 C. 179; Id., 641; 224 C. 23; 225 C. 177; Id., 217; 226 C. 282; Id., 757. Section does not bar an employer from seeking reimbursement under Sec. 31-293(a). 231 C. 370. Cited. 235 C. 408; 240 C. 105. In order for liability to obtain under section, defendant must have notice of an actual defect and not merely notice of potential defects or conditions likely to create a defect. 246 C. 638. Section invoked where plaintiff tripped on a portion of a steel sign post that had been cut off just above ground level while disembarking from bus that had stopped approximately 7 feet from the broken post; section is not void for vagueness as applied to facts of case. 255 C. 330. When town clerk’s office is closed on the 90th day on which notice can be filed, it is sufficient to file notice on the next day on which the office is open; a party does not fail to give notice simply because the notice addresses the wrong name as town clerk. Id., 693. Sole proximate case doctrine precludes municipal liability where plaintiff is contributorily negligent and where other tortfeasors or independent nontortious factors contributed to the injury; therefore statute does not provide a right to indemnification. 258 C. 56. Under section, the focus with respect to the element of sole proximate cause is whether any factors other than municipality’s breach of its statutory duty caused plaintiff’s injury. Id., 574. Inaccurate notice under section is not, by itself, fatal to plaintiff’s claim; the savings clause operates to protect plaintiffs from having their claims barred by reason of a vague, indefinite or inaccurate notice of accident location. 262 C. 787. Manner in which defect is created has no bearing on municipal liability under section and municipal liability was imposed where defect in highway created by third-party contractor was sole proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries. 292 C. 364. If injury complained of was caused by a highway defect on town road, plaintiff’s only recourse against town is to pursue a claim under this section pursuant to the exclusivity provision of Sec. 52-557n(a)(1)(C), and plaintiff cannot maintain a separate nuisance action against town. 304 C. 298.

In action pursuant to section, costs may be taxed against a defendant municipality. 4 CA 30. Savings clause of section must be pleaded and evidence introduced to prove its elements. Id., 315. Cited. 5 CA 104; 8 CA 169; 11 CA 1; 15 CA 185; Id., 668; 16 CA 213; 21 CA 633; 25 CA 67; 26 CA 407; Id., 534; 27 CA 487; 28 CA 449; 29 CA 565; judgment reversed, see 228 C. 358; Id., 791; 30 CA 594; 31 CA 906; 33 CA 56; Id., 754; 36 CA 158; 38 CA 14; 39 CA 289; 40 CA 179; 45 CA 413. Notice provisions discussed. 47 CA 365. Walkway deemed to be road or bridge since it was on public property leading from city street to public school and there was reasonable anticipation that the public would make use of it. Id., 734. Plaintiff could not prevail on claim that because section contains its own limitation period, court improperly relied on Sec. 52-584, which is applicable to negligence cases in general; trial court properly determined statute of limitations was not tolled during plaintiff’s illness because this section contains no such tolling provision. 48 CA 60. Notice requirement not met where plaintiff’s letter of notice did not arrive at town clerk’s office until after the 90th day and where addressee on the letter was not a person employed in clerk’s office or known to town clerk. 58 CA 191. Savings clause does not extend time requirement for delivery of notice. 67 CA 464. Plaintiff bears burden of proving delivery and actual receipt of notice. 72 CA 766. Notice by plaintiff’s attorney that was received by town clerk more than 90 days from date of claimed injury and e-mail sent from plaintiff’s supervisor to supervisor of a community center did not meet notice requirements of highway defect statute in order to invoke subject matter jurisdiction. 96 CA 387. Because there was no factual dispute that access to a transfer station was restricted and was, therefore, not open to the public, the court properly determined plaintiff’s claim did not fall within the purview of the defective highway statute. 110 CA 657. Section and Sec. 13a-144 are not irreconcilably in conflict and do not prevent plaintiff from recovering from either state or municipal governmental entity if municipal employees caused a defect on a state highway because liability depends on existence of a defect, not the underlying causes which produced it. 116 CA 28. Failure to comply with Sec. 14-300c(a) demonstrated negligence on the part of plaintiff and precluded recovery under this section. 119 CA 724. Trial court properly concluded that plaintiff’s claim fell within the purview of section and granted defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to comply with section’s notice requirement because an improperly positioned storm drain cover located on a sidewalk is a defect in the highway and the facts admitted to in the pleadings name the defendant as the party bound to keep the property at issue in repair; highway defect statute is a legislative exception to the immunity of municipalities at common law and must be strictly construed. 125 CA 149. Common-law negligence is not applicable in a highway defect case; notice must be given under section and provide a general description of injuries sustained. 139 CA 487. Allegation that municipal road was unsafe for public travel because of a condition of the road caused by town’s construction project is sufficient to satisfy pleading requirements of section, regardless of whether the claim is brought specifically under section. 143 CA 249. Because town defendants can only be held liable pursuant to section, and section requires that town defendants’ conduct be sole proximate cause of damages alleged in order for liability to attach, any negligence on the part of third party negates possibility of relief from town defendants on theory of common-law indemnification. 147 CA 650. Where plaintiff exercises due care, failure to see sidewalk defect does not render plaintiff contributorily negligent. 148 CA 186. A public nuisance claim may not be brought independently of section when plaintiff’s claim for damages against a municipality resulted from an injury sustained by means of a defective municipal road. 150 CA 805.

What is sufficient notice. 2 CS 41; 14 CS 365; 18 CS 330; 19 CS 43. Statute applied to the City of New Haven. 2 CS 41; 4 CS 401, 481; 5 CS 88, 193, 312; 6 CS 44, 491; 7 CS 245, 297; 9 CS 79; 29 CS 75. Cited. 3 CS 12. Section grants right of action. 4 CS 401. Contributory act of another; civil liability of property owner in absence of an ordinance creating it. Id., 481. Complaint based on nuisance. 5 CS 81; Id., 268; 16 CS 222. No action at common law in absence of negligence. 5 CS 88. Cited. Id., 193. Sidewalk built for travel under normal conditions is devoid of defect. Id., 312. Notice improperly addressed. Id., 493; 16 CS 136. Cited. 7 CS 143; Id., 297. Notice condition precedent to recovery. Id., 245. Contents of notice. Id., 379. Notice concerning ice and snow. 8 CS 471. Cited. 9 CS 79. General description of “defective road”. 10 CS 22. Cited. Id., 521. Suit against both city and town. 11 CS 114. How “time” of injury is stated. 12 CS 246. Cited. Id., 267; Id., 283; Id., 309. Burden of plaintiff to prove that defective notice was not intended to mislead municipality. 14 CS 106. Action against Waterbury must be read with city charter. Id., 403. Terms of statute may not be waived; notice requirement not obviated because officer has knowledge of the fact. 15 CS 442. Notice not required if action based on negligence. 16 CS 222. Cited. 17 CS 114. Commencement of action as alternative to notice. Id., 420. Governmental immunity not a defense to action under section. 18 CS 124. Cited. Id., 501; 20 CS 142. Action against city under section and against another defendant for nuisance can be joined but claim must be in alternative. 22 CS 74, 76. Complaint demurrable where plaintiff did not allege exercise of due care or freedom from contributory negligence. Id., 75, 77. Whether path in public park was part of public highway system and was being used by plaintiff as traveler within meaning of section are questions of fact to be determined on trial of case. Id., 456. Savings clause serves to obviate inaccuracies in description of injuries; comparison with Sec. 13a-144. 23 CS 113. Cited. Id., 132. Redrafted count of complaint, substituted after demurrer, should have alleged requisite notice had been given. Id., 147. Cited. Id., 152. Where plaintiff brought action under Sec. 7-465 against local board of education to recover for injuries resulting from school bus accident, held action should have been brought under this section. 25 CS 305. Purpose of notice requirement. Id., 358. Cited. 26 CS 74. A malfunctioning traffic light is a defect in the highway. 29 CS 108. Municipality liable for invisible stop sign. Id., 352. Cited. 31 CS 442; 44 CS 45; Id., 389.

Although a notice will not be held invalid because of inaccuracy in describing the cause of the injury, where there is in effect no cause of injury stated the notice is invalid. 3 Conn. Cir. Ct. 644.

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