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October 16, 2002 - Inline skater sues Duluth for injuries

A proposed amendment to the Twin Rivers Community Trust bylaws that would have protected the homeowners association from lawsuits for most slip-and-fall accidents fell far short of receiving the number of votes needed for passage. The amendment would have prohibited anyone from suing the trust for slip-and-fall accidents unless the trust was deemed to be grossly negligent.

A Duluth man has commenced a personal injury lawsuit against the city of Duluth, Labovitz Enterprises Inc. and First Properties claiming a broken sidewalk caused him to fall and be injured while inline skating. Michael J. Janousek, now 19, said he was entering Plaza Shopping Center property at the southeast corner of 12th Avenue East and Superior Street in May 1997 when he crossed a section of sidewalk that was broken and uneven, causing him to slip and fall.

The lawsuit, brought by Duluth lawyer David Weidt on Janousek's behalf, asks for more than $50,000 and claims that the defendants failed to provide a safe condition, free from unreasonable defects, hazards or obstructions, in entrance areas, specifically, a safe and even sidewalk, ,as well as, failing to take reasonable care to inspect and correct the hazardous sidewalk and warn the entrants of the hazard.

Janousek claims that as a result of the alleged negligence, he received serious personal injuries, some or all of which are permanent; suffered continuous physical pain and mental distress; suffered a permanent diminished capacity to enjoy life; lost income and earning capacity; incurred medical bills for treatment and care and will continue to do so. Michael Oja, the Minneapolis lawyer representing Labovitz Enterprises Inc. and First Properties, denied the allegations in a formal answer filed in St. Louis County District Court. Oja asked the court to dismiss the complaint saying, "Plaintiff's injuries, if any, were caused by the negligence of plaintiff and/or the negligence of others."

Deputy City Attorney M. Alison Lutterman also denied the allegations in the city's answer to the lawsuit and asked the court to dismiss the complaint. Lutterman wrote that the condition of the sidewalk was open and obvious and that any injuries Janousek may have sustained were the result of his own negligence or negligence of others over whom the city had no control and for whose actions the city is not liable.

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