Bring pothole complaints to village clerk

To the editor:

In a recent letter to the editor, George Hadynski complained of an ankle injury caused by a pothole on Olive Street. I wrote this LTE to the Enterprise many years ago. It still pertains.

“A recent letter to the editor deplored the dangerous conditions on many of the village’s streets and sidewalks. In fact, the writer said she had sprained her ankle in a hole on one occasion and was forced to miss work for a week. 

“Writing an LTE is certainly one way of informing village officials and the general public of these hazards. However, the only effective way of ensuring that repairs are made is to put the village on notice that failure to correct dangerous conditions may subject it to liability claims.

“Currently, Section 6-628 of New York State’s Village Law erects a bureaucratic barrier to lawsuits against villages involving injuries and damage caused by dangerous conditions (or ice or snow) on streets, highways, bridges, culverts, sidewalks or crosswalks. As a general matter, a village can only be sued if (1) written notice of the specific condition was actually given to the village clerk beforehand and (2) the village failed to correct the hazard within a reasonable time of the notice. 

“We should all take note: Barring unusual circumstances, no matter how egregious the dangerous condition or the village’s negligence in not discovering and rectifying it, you will not be able recover damages, or even be recompensed for your medical expenses, unless someone has previously notified the village clerk of the condition. 

“As if this tilt in favor of village government weren’t enough, the law lays a procedural trap for the unwary. Even if you were to send written notice of the condition to the village employees most likely to take the appropriate corrective action — the village manager or the highway superintendent — you’d be out of luck. Only notice to the village clerk will suffice.

“So, do your neighbors — and possibly yourself — a big favor. If you see a potentially dangerous condition in any of the areas mentioned above, send a letter to the village clerk detailing the condition and the precise location. I have found from personal experience that the village is far more responsive in correcting hazardous conditions once it is clear that it will be financially responsible, if its failure to act results in personal injury or property damage.

“What a catastrophe if someone is seriously injured because of the village’s negligence. What a more serious tragedy it is to be told you will not be recompensed for that injury because the dangerous condition had not been reported to the village clerk beforehand.”

Edward Murphy

Vermontville and Kennett Square, Pennsylvania