Injured woman’s lawsuit against state dismissed

The Kent County Courthouse on Federal Street in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — A Kent County woman’s bid to hold the state responsible for serious injuries she suffered while reporting for jury duty three years ago was dismissed in court this week.

Sabra A. Horvat slipped on an icy path to the Kent County Courthouse on March 4, 2014, and medical bills to repair her leg exceeded $84,902.44, according to the facts of the case in a 16-page opinion issued Monday.

The State of Delaware successfully argued to Judge Richard F. Stokes that sovereign immunity, the public duty doctrine and the State Tort Claims Act made it immune from the lawsuit.

Because the roads and parking lot were plowed for the general public, and not Ms. Horvat alone, the state’s contention that she had no special relationship that could be applied to liability was upheld in the opinion.

Regarding sovereign immunity, Judge Stokes stated “The facts do not support the contention that the use of the snowplow caused (Horvat’s) injuries.
“Therefore, (she) is precluded from bringing her claim.”

Ms. Horvat asserted “that the use of the snowplow caused the icy patch and her resultant injury,” according to the opinion, and wrote “it is the careless and unreasonable use of a snowplow vehicle and a salt spreader vehicle that allowed untreated snow and ice to remain on the parking lot surface (and caused the injury.)”

William D. Fletcher of Dover-based Schmittinger & Rodgriguez represented the plaintiff with Deputy Attorneys General Joseph C. Handlon and Lynn A. Kelly arguing for the state.

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