Trial involving personal injury case against Wood River Township to be continued

Christina Stueve Hodges Aug. 16, 2012, 7:25am


The parties in a personal injury case against Wood River Township have asked to continue a trial that was scheduled to start Sept. 10 because discovery is not complete.

The case involves a Madison County woman and her husband who filed suit against Wood River Township, alleging the woman tripped on a piece of protruding pipe from a sidewalk in front of the township hall.

Debra Freeman claims she was attending a funeral dinner March 10, 2009, when the incident occurred as she went outside the building.

Because of her fall, Debra Freeman allegedly suffered injuries to her right arm, leg and left foot, suffered pain of her body and mind, incurred medical bills and lost money, she claims. Co-plaintiff Gary Freeman claims he has lost his wife's consortium and society, according to the complaint.

The Freemans blame Wood River Township for the incident and for failing to warn of the pipe's presence. They also blame the township for permitting a piece of pipe to protrude vertically through the sidewalk in front of the township hall.

They are seeking more than $50,000.

Wood River Township, meanwhile, has a motion for summary judgment pending.

According to its motion, Freeman was wearing two-inch, open toed shoes and was carrying a soda in her left hand and a cup of ice with soda in her right hand when the incident occurred.

Wood River Township also contends that Freeman did not actually fall onto the concrete but stumbled into the arms of her granddaughter.

Its motion further states that Freeman did not lose either the cup or the can of soda during the stumble, and that she eventually left the area and went home.

The township argues that after the incident, Freeman went back to the site and noticed a pipe protruding from the concrete. She took photos of a pipe that was embedded in concrete, its motion states.

"The Wood River Township owed no duty to protect the plaintiff of a condition that was open and obvious," the motion states.

Wood River Township claims that municipalities are not required to keep their sidewalks in perfect condition. Slight irregularities in level and "minor de minimis defects are not actionable," according to the defense answer to the plaintiff's complaint.

It also states that the condition on which Debra Freeman allegedly tripped was open and obvious.

J. Robert Edmonds of Mormino, Velloff, Edmonds and Snider in Alton represent Debra Freeman and her husband Gary.

Christine G. McClimans of Schrempf, Kelly, Napp & Darr represents the defense.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 10-L-4.

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