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Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Woman wants county held liable for medical expenses

By William Kincaid
A woman who claims to have broken her ankle on an uneven section of sidewalk outside of the Mercer County Courthouse wants the county to pay her medical bills.
But Mercer County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Amy Ikerd doesn't think the county will be held liable because of the state's sovereign immunity law.
The sovereign immunity law prevents governments from being held liable in accidents or other events, unless employee negligence or other conditions are present, Ikerd said. The law, she said, was intended to protect taxpayer dollars.
Anita Hines told Mercer County commissioners on Tuesday she broke her ankle in several places on April 23 after stumbling over an uneven area of sidewalk outside the courthouse near the east side of Main Street.
Hines, who was at the courthouse for a family-related custody case, said she managed to get to her car and drive home. She said she was taken to a hospital, where a temporary cast was placed on her ankle after X-rays confirmed the fractures. She then went to Kemmler Orthopaedic Center.
"They took me in right away and put me in a cast," she told commissioners.
Hines, who lives in Mercer County, said she reported the incident to the Mercer County Sheriff's Department, as well as her Medicaid provider. Hines claims the provider told her to seek payment from the county for her medical expenses.
When she contacted a person at the courthouse about her injury, this person asked her if she had eyes and if she looked down when she walked, Hines claims.
The difference in the sidewalk elevation where Hines stumbled was reportedly between a 1/2 and 3/4 of an inch.
"I got legal advice but nobody will touch the case," Hines said after she submitted pictures of the sidewalk to commissioners.
Ikerd said according to the state's sovereign immunity law, the discrepancy in the sidewalk has to be at least 2 inches before liability claims against a government agency or its facilities are accepted.
"It's pretty much in the hands of our insurance company," Commissioner Jerry Laffin said about Hines' medical claims.
Hines then claimed the concrete curbs and sidewalks at the courthouse are deteriorating and need fixed. She also said the county shouldn't paint its ceilings before fixing its sidewalks.
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