West Vancouver to pay $93,000 to elderly woman who fell into meter box

The 74-year-old suffered cuts, bruises and scrapes as she was walking to Shoppers Drug Mart

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered the District of West Vancouver to pay a 74-year-old woman $93,000 after she fell into an open meter box.

According to court documents released Tuesday, Patricia Curtiss crossed the street in front of her office at lunch time, going to a Shoppers Drug Mart, on July 13, 2015.

As she stepped onto the sidewalk on the other side of the street, she tripped on the lid of an open meter box and fell in. The concrete chamber houses the district’s water connection service to the drugstore and measures just over two feet wide and three feet deep.

The woman suffered cuts, scrapes and bruises to various parts of her body, including her forehead, nose, upper lip, hands, lower legs and left inner thigh.

The “happy, active and productive” woman also had “throbbing” headaches that lasted for the better part of a year, and she still has occasional balance problems.

It wasn’t clear how the lid to the meter box got dislodged, but Curtiss told the court vehicles had been driving over the lid. The sidewalk was flush with the roadway, allowing cars to drive onto it without hitting a curb.

But she said the lid was rated only for pedestrian use, not vehicle use.

Curtiss alleged that had the district installed a proper lid, it wouldn’t have become dislodged and she wouldn’t have been hurt.

The district denied it was liable for Curtiss’ injuries because it did own the meter or the sidewalk.

Officials said district staff should not have had to foresee that vehicles may drive over the meter lid when it was choosing which one to install, and said that any vehicle that drove over it would have to be “driving in an unreasonable and dangerous manner.”

However, Marchand said it was “reasonably foreseeable” that cars driving over the box could damage the lid or cause it to fail.

He said the meter could have been installed further back from the sidewalk or that more could have been done to shield it from traffic.

Marchand concluded that the lid did not meet the standard required and that “an ordinary, reasonable and prudent designer” would have installed a lid capable of withstanding vehicle traffic.

Curtiss was awarded non-pecuniary damages of $85,000, special damages of $4,274, and damages for cost of future care of $3,800.


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