News 4 Investigates: Hazardous City sidewalks are costing taxpayers

‘Fall down’ injuries have cost taxpayers over $700,000 in the past five years
‘Fall down’ injuries have cost taxpayers over $700,000 in the past five years
Published: Jul. 5, 2023 at 10:25 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A simple trip to a Cardinals game cost one St. Peters woman big time. That woman was left with an injury that could happen to you, and taxpayers are footing the bill.

Karen Grant was walking towards Busch stadium in May when her foot caught on a lip in the sidewalk.

“It happened so fast I don’t remember anything other than hitting my head and the pain of my head,” she said.

She was badly banged up.

“They said both elbows were broken and that I have a concussion,” she said.

She was unable to work, and when we spoke with her, she was still in pain and still in a sling.

“Everything I do is difficult, and everything I do takes twice as long to do,” she said. “I never would have thought that I’d watch the game on the TV at the emergency room instead of at the stadium.”

“If you want people to live downtown, come downtown, visit downtown, you need to make sure they’re comfortable doing so,” said Grant’s attorney Tyler Thompson.

Thompson believes the City should be at fault for hazardous sidewalks.

“If you invite people onto your property and you know about that dangerous condition and you don’t do anything to remedy it, you’re responsible for that. If the City invites people to come downtown and visit and spend time down here, they’re responsible for a dangerous condition,” Thompson said.

He’s now filed a suit, and he’s far from the only one.

News 4 Investigates analyzed data from lawsuits settled by the City since 2017.

There have been more than 30 cases of what’s classified as “fall downs.” The City has settled those cases, often for smaller amounts like $2,000, $6,000 or $10,000.

But in some cases, the number paid by taxpayers to people injured in “fall downs” soared as high as $125,000.

Because the City is self-insured, in total, fall down injuries, often from broken, cracked, or crumbling sidewalks, cost taxpayers more than $723,000 in the last five years.

“We’d like Ms. Grant to be compensated for her injuries, and we’d like the City to address the issues. If they’re not going to address the issue without having to deal with these types of lawsuits, then maybe they will address the issue if they have to deal with these kinds of lawsuits,” said Thompson.

Sidewalks are public right of ways, but by law, the City can shift some of the cost of repairs to property owners.

The City’s website says: “Property owners are required to maintain their sidewalks in good repair. The City of St. Louis offers owners a cost sharing option through the 50/50 sidewalk program.”

That means they’ll split the cost of repairs.

But for years, residents have complained about backlogs in the program.

We wanted to talk with city officials about sidewalk repair. They declined our requests for interviews.

But a spokesperson for the city says they currently have 2200 miles of sidewalks.

They have set aside $6 million in federal pandemic funding to start clearing the backlog of cases in the 50-50 program.

A spokesperson told News 4 they cannot comment on pending litigation.

Nearly two months after her fall, the sidewalk is still exactly the same.

With tens of thousands filing into Busch stadium for months to come, Grant says she is hesitant to come back here.

“If it happened to me that easily, it could happen to anybody,” Grant said.

If you see a broken sidewalk, you can report it to the Citizen Services Bureau. You can find the information on how to do that here.