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Stensland v. Harding County: Assumption of Risk

Stensland v. Harding County, a personal injury case from the Supreme Court of South Dakota, involved a plaintiff who was injured when he drove over a washed out portion of the road. Prior to his accident, a local resident, whose driveway was along a county road, was traveling east with his family on the county road after it had been snowing and raining during the prior week. He ran over a ditch and then stopped to further investigate the condition of the road.

Wrong way sign post

Wrong way sign post

Upon further investigation, he noticed a hole in the road and water in another ditch. He stomped down on that section of road with his foot, and it collapsed. His wife called county officials to tell them of the collapse and the condition of the road in general. During the trial, the county official who received the warning call said he placed signs on that section of road, and he put what he referred to as a type I barricade near that section with a road closed sign prominently displayed.

However, at some time subsequent to the county official placing warning signs and closing the road, someone else had moved the signs to another road.   The county also put cones on the side of the road, and a person whose identity was known placed a delineator post in the roadway where the culvert was. According to other local witnesses, a delineator post is normally placed at the edge of a culvert, not in the center.

At it turns out, a type I barricade was not appropriate for this situation, according to a manual of uniform traffic control, as a type III barricade should have been used. The number of white and orange-striped horizontal boards determines the type of barricade. A type I barricade is basically a sawhorse with one board stretched across it, and a type III barricade has three horizontal boards spanning a metal frame. The uniform traffic control manual also required a road closed head sign before the actual closure to warn approaching motorists.

Plaintiff testified he was driving down the road with his daughter when he saw the road was washed out. This made him drive slower and stay on the left side. He said he did not see any barricades but did see the delineator post. However, he assumed it marked the edge of the culvert, so he was trying to drive on the left side of the post.   He crashed into the ditch. He and his daughter were able to exit the vehicle, but his left leg was injured, and he could not put weight on it. Another witness in the case helped him, but he did not call 911 or go to the hospital until the next day, when he learned his leg was fractured.   If you are ever injured in an accident, you should speak with a Boston car accident lawyer as soon as possible, but the first thing you should do is call 911, and never turn down medical attention or a ride to the hospital.

Prior to trial, plaintiff moved for summary judgment and moved to dismiss county’s claim he was contributorily negligent for driving on a washed out road. Trial judge denied both motions. The jury found for county, and plaintiff appealed. Ultimately, the court of appeals affirmed trial court.

If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment: 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Stensland v. Harding County, November 16, 2015, Supreme Court of South Dakota

More Blog Entries:

Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mut. Ins. Co. Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Stacking, July 3, 2014, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog