A Clark County woman has filed a lawsuit against the city of Vancouver claiming that poor sidewalk maintenance contributed to her brother’s death more than a year ago.
According to the suit, filed in Clark County Superior Court on Feb. 2, Robert Willard Smith was found dead on the sidewalk in front of 10910 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. in the early hours of Jan. 28, 2020.
“The sidewalk at that location was found in a state of serious disrepair,” the suit states. “A municipality such as the city of Vancouver has a duty to exercise ordinary care in the maintenance of its sidewalks to keep them in a condition that is reasonably safe for ordinary use.”
The suit was filed by Clark County resident Christine Troutt, the deceased man’s sister. Her lawyer, David Mann of Ledger Law Firm, said the case is currently in discovery and that they’re ordering an autopsy.
“The Ledger Law Firm is determined to see this through to its best conclusion,” Mann said.
Troutt is seeking an undetermined amount in damages — to be “proven at trial,” the court document states — as well as reimbursement for legal fees.
It’s unclear from the lawsuit exactly how a sidewalk in poor repair may have led to Smith’s death. Corrine Weiss, Vancouver’s interim communications director, wrote in an email to The Columbian that the city was recently alerted to Troutt’s lawsuit.
“The city is aware of Mr. Smith’s death and our hearts go out to his family and loved ones,” Weiss wrote. “While his death is tragic, we have yet to be presented with any evidence that Mr. Smith tripped on a city sidewalk, let alone that such a trip was the cause of his death.”
“For this reason,” Weiss continued, “the city cannot agree that this is an incident for which Vancouver’s taxpayers should bear any liability.”
The location where Smith’s body was found falls along the border between Clark County and Vancouver. In a response to The Columbian’s request for public records pertaining to Smith’s death, the city stated that the location was outside of their jurisdiction, in unincorporated Clark County.
In an email, Mann countered that he believed that assertion was wrong.