Canadian County judge sides with commissioners in negligence suit

Grants motion for summary judgment in case stemming from woman’s fall

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Canadian County District Judge Paul Hesse

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

EL RENO – A Canadian County judge has granted the county commissioners’ motion for summary judgment in a negligence suit stemming from a Mustang woman’s fall near the county jail.

District Judge Paul Hesse issued an order Dec. 15 in a lawsuit filed in April 2020 on behalf of plaintiff Pamela Smith against two defendants, the Board of Canadian County Commissioners and the City of El Reno.

Attorney Terry L. Pierce represents Smith, who in April 2019 allegedly stumbled and fell on “broken and uneven sidewalk” in front of the old jail building at the corner of Evans Avenue and Rogers Street.

The Canadian County Commissioners’ attorneys, W.R. Moon, Jr. and Stephen L. Geries, filed a motion for summary judgment Oct. 15 in the civil action.

“This case stems from the plaintiff tripping and falling on a sidewalk near the Canadian County Jail,” Judge Hesse wrote in his Dec. 15th order. “The plaintiff filed a response on November 1, 2021, and changed her theory of liability.

“The plaintiff now claims that the defendant is liable for her injuries because Canadian County Sheriff’s staff directed her to take an unsafe path ‘over a minefield of uneven sidewalk cracks’ to the jail.”

After considering the motion and other filings, Judge Hesse found the defendant had “demonstrated that no controversy exists as to material facts and that the defendant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.”

When summary judgment is granted, the proceedings are brought to a prompt end without the need for a full trial.

Canadian County Commissioners have denied wrongdoing in this matter.

In the commissioners’ court-filed answer to the lawsuit, their attorneys wrote that Smith’s fall and injuries “were the result of her own negligence.”

The county commissioners are “exempt from liability under the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act”, according to their response.

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TRIPPED ON SIDEWALK

In her lawsuit, plaintiff Smith alleges she fell on her right hand and broke five bones, suffering disfigurement and permanent limitation of the use of that hand.

The woman had reportedly gone to the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office to get fingerprinted for her concealed carry license. It was as Smith walked toward the county jail for fingerprinting that she allegedly tripped on the sidewalk.

Smith and her attorney believe Canadian County and El Reno should have maintained and repaired the property so it “does not present a hazard to her and other persons invited to walk upon it,” according to court documents.

The woman is seeking a judgment “in excess of $75,000” for her injuries and damages: Physical pain, disfigurement and suffering; mental pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages.

The civil suit was filed April 16, 2020, about six months after the City of El Reno denied Smith’s $125,000 tort claim.

The case is still pending against the defendant City of El Reno. A non-jury trial is on the Feb. 7, 2022, docket.

Judge Hesse previously denied the City of El Reno’s motion for summary judgment in the case, court records show.

El Reno’s attorney, Robert Ray Jones Jr., had argued the woman’s fall “was nothing more than an unfortunate accident” and the plaintiff’s claims were “without merit.”

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