Woman to receive $80,000 settlement from city after falling into pothole, breaking her leg

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A pothole. Photo by Gregory Williams, via Flickr.

One of Baltimore’s infamous potholes has proven to be an expensive liability for the city, with officials set to approve an $80,000 settlement for a woman who sued after fracturing her fibula falling into one that went unfixed.

The Board of Estimates is expected to approve the payment tomorrow morning during its weekly meeting. It goes to Mitchelle Conway, of Canton, who filed a lawsuit in March 2018, according to this week’s board agenda. Her claim came about 18 months after she stepped into “an obscured pothole along the curb” at 907 S. Decker Ave., sustaining “serious injuries, including a fractured right fibula.”

Conway had to undergo surgery to fix the broken bone, which left her with “medical hardware remaining in her body,” the agenda says. Conway, 46, has worked as a caterer and cook, but “now faces a lifetime of disability.”

It’s unclear how much Conway was initially seeking in damages, but court records show her lawyer and city attorneys settled the case for $80,000 in March.

The city admitted it was aware of the unfixed pothole in the agenda: “There is substantial evidence that the City had notice of the defect and an opportunity to correct it before the accident.” The city’s Law Department thus recommended the board approve the settlement.

Conway’s attorney, Lauren Geisser, said Wednesday morning, after the settlement was approved, that a key piece of evidence in the case was a Google Images shot of the pothole dating back to 2009. The photo showed the pothole has become overgrown with weeds and grass, and indicated the city had left it unfixed “for at least seven years,” Geisser said.

A neighbor also testified as a witness, saying she had called 311 about the pothole but it had been left unrepaired.

Geisser noted “the city was never able to substantiate” via 311 records that the neighbor did call it in, but said in any event, “the city still has an obligation to correct defects that they should have known about or had an opportunity to fix.”

We’ve reached out to the Baltimore City Department of Transportation about the pothole-related settlement.

This story has been updated.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
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