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The City of Atlanta has far too many open water meter and sewer meter boxes and they are being forced to pay settlements for something that is relatively easy to fix. Anyone who walks the city streets frequently has seen these open boxes, often a foot deep. Sometimes the cover is off-kilter and sometimes it is completely missing. All the city need to is affix a simple lock and the problem would be solved. What can you do if you see a missing cover? Go to www.SeeClickFix.com and send a picture to report it.
What are your rights if you step into one of these open meters and get injured? Under the law of Georgia, a city must take ordinary reasonable care to keep the sidewalks in good repair. The rule is different for counties, so be careful. Counties are often immune.
The city is liable if it was on actual or constructive notice that the cover was broken on missing. Constructive notice means that the cover was missing long enough that there is no way the city should not have noticed and addressed the problem.
Susan Swann v. City of Atlanta
In 2011, Swann fell into an open water meter in Little Five Points. Discovery showed that the city had already paid $90,000 to another person injured by the same open water meter 9 months before. The City settled for $240,000.
Kuhr v. City of Atlanta, Sept. 2015
The Plaintiff broke their tibia and fibula and had surgery after stepping into an open water meter filled with leaves. The city initially denied knowing that the cover was missing but there was a Creative Loafing article from before the fall with the actual open hole on the cover. The city realized they would be foolish to argue that there was no constructive knowledge and paid $275,000 to settle the case.