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Negligently installed manhole cover caused crash: motorist








Fulton County


Fulton County, Superior Court

Injury Type(s):

back-fracture (fracture, L5), back (fracture, L5);
back-fracture (fracture, S1), back (fracture, S1);
back-fracture (fracture, L5), vertebra (fracture, L5);
back-fracture (fracture, S1), vertebra (fracture, S1);
neck; other-laceration; other-kyphoplasty; other-soft tissue; other-physical therapy; other-compression fracture; wrist; wrist-fracture, wrist

Case Type:

Transportation – Roadways; Government – Municipalities; Motor Vehicle – Road Defect, Single Vehicle; Intentional Torts – Public Nuisance; Motor Vehicle – Dangerous Condition; Dangerous Condition of Public Property –

Case Name:

Pamela Dale v. City of Atlanta and City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management,
No. 2017CV286897


February 8, 2019



Pamela Dale (Female, 49 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Michael A. Baskin;
The Baskin Law Group, PC;
Pamela Dale

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Joseph McHugh; P.E.; Accident Reconstruction; Boston,
GA called by:
Michael A. Baskin ■ Nicole Forsythe; M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Marietta,
GA called by:
Michael A. Baskin


City of Atlanta, 

City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management

Defense Attorney(s):

Torrey D. Smith;
City of Atlanta Department of Law;
City of Atlanta, City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management ■ Sherida N. Mabon;
City of Atlanta Department of Law;
City of Atlanta, City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management


On Aug. 13, 2016, plaintiff Pamela Dale, 49, a manager, was driving south on Peachtree Road, in Atlanta. Dale claimed that the front of her vehicle suddenly and unexpectedly became airborne and crashed to the ground after she drove over an uncovered manhole. Dale claimed that she injured her lower back and left arm. Dale sued the city of Atlanta and the Department of Watershed Management, alleging that the manhole was a public nuisance and that the manhole was installed in violation of municipal, county and state regulations. Dale alleged that the front of her vehicle became airborne four to five feet in the air when she drove over the uncovered manhole and then hit the street with thunderous force. She claimed that the vehicle then proceeded to travel approximately 15 yards down the street before coming to a stop. Dale alleged that the city failed to maintain the manhole in a safe condition, which created a continuing public nuisance, which the city failed to inspect. She asserted that the manhole was 4 to 6 inches below the surface of the ground and was not marked by warning signs, nor was the manhole barricaded to prevent persons operating motor vehicles from driving over the manhole. Dale’s accident-reconstruction expert opined that the city knew, or should have known, that by installing a manhole 4 to 6 inches below the street surface, the manhole posed a serious and dangerous hazard and/or nuisance to the public. The expert stated that the city knew, or should have known, that constant and continuous pressure from trucks and automobiles would cause the manhole to dislodge and create a public hazard and imminent peril to the general public, including Dale. He opined that the manhole cover most likely sunk under the weight of the constant and continuous pressure from vehicles and flipped off the manhole. He further stated that the manhole cover was found approximately 7 yards from the manhole. The defense argued that there was no notice of the alleged public nuisance.


Dale was transported by ambulance to Piedmont Hospital emergency department. She was diagnosed with a compressed lumbar fracture at L5-S1, left wrist fracture and lacerations to her left hand. She also claimed a soft tissue neck injury. Dale underwent a kyphoplasty, in which bone cement was injected into the collapsed vertebral body to stabilize her back. She was hospitalized for nine days. After discharge, Dale was incapacitated for four months, unable to walk. She underwent four months of twice weekly physical therapy sessions. Dale claimed she required the assistance of a walker for one year after the accident. She was also prescribed pain medication and wore a back brace for six months. Dale’s treating doctor opined that Dale’s spinal complaints were caused by the accident. The doctor opined that Dale was struck by the driver’s side airbag, which injured her left arm. Dale claimed residual pain and limitations performing activities of daily living. She argued that she will require future medical care for pain management. Dale’s counsel suggested the jury award $2 million. The defense did not actively dispute the issue of Dale’s damages and did not call any medical experts.


The jury determined that Dale’s damages totaled $1.4 million.

Trial Information:


Eric Dunaway

Trial Length:


Trial Deliberations:


Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Defense counsel declined to contribute.