Rhode Island law requires that an injury caused by the negligence of a Town or City be reported to that Town or City within sixty (60) days of the accident, or the case will be dismissed. This is a topic that has been on my mind for the past week or so because I have a new client who broke her ankle on a Providence sidewalk and because the Rhode Island Supreme Court just discussed the law in a recent ruling.
The plaintiff in the recent Rhode Island Supreme Court Decision, Susan McNulty, had her case dismissed by summary judgment because she did not adequately notify the City of Providence of her fall. Ms. McNulty spoke with the City clerk but never actually notified the City in writing, as per the statute, and the City moved for Summary Judgment. Summary judgment was granted meaning that her case is dead and buried. The Supreme Court affirmed the granting of summary judgment.
Rhode Island General Laws 45-15-9 and 45-15-10 state that a person injured on a highway, causeway or bridge, must give notice to the Town or City obliged to keep the road or bridge in a safe condition, of any injury within sixty days of occurrence. The notice MUST be in writing and signed by the injured party (or his or her attorney) and indicate the time, location (with specificity), and manner of the injury that occurred on public property. Because Ms. McNulty only notified the City of Providence by phone, she was in violation of the Statute and lost her case.
The general public is unaware that this statute even exists and may falsely believe that they have three (3) years to bring a suit against a town or city because that is the statute of limitations. Unfortunately, this is a costly mistake. There are additional provisions in the statute as well which require a formal demand before the filing of a lawsuit, etc.
Regardless of the nature of the accident, whether slip and fall or auto accident, you must notify the city or town if they are a potential defendant. This is the law throughout Rhode Island. Therefore, if you were injured on public property, it is imperative that you speak to an experienced personal injury attorney right away so that you do not lose your rights to compensation. This is a legal minefield and not an area of law which you want to travel alone.