Do Political Subdivisions Have a Duty to Keep Public Roadways Safe for Travel ?
In Franks v. Lopez (1994), 69 Ohio St.3d 345, 1994 Ohio 487, 632 N.E.2d 502, the Ohio Supreme Court stated that "[o]verhanging branches and foliage which obscure traffic signs, malfunctioning traffic signals, signs which have lost their capacity to reflect, or even physical impediments such as potholes, are easily discoverable, and the elimination of such hazards involves no discretion, policy-making or engineering judgment.
The political subdivision has the responsibility to abate them and it will not be immune from liability for its failure to do so." Id. at 349.
See, also, Huffman v. Bd. of Cty. Commrs., Columbiana App. No. 05 CO 71, 2006 Ohio 3479, at P57-60 (refusing to find that a decision to barricade a fallen bridge called for a discretionary decision).
Furthermore, the First District has found that when an exception to liability exists under R.C. 2744.02(B)(3), a city's exercise of some discretion will still not abrogate its duty to keep its streets free from a nuisance. Dillard v. Cincinnati, Hamilton App. No. C-050045, 2005 Ohio 6819, at P17.
Although the court reached its decision under the parameters of former R.C. 2744.02(B)(3), the general contention is that political subdivisions may not thwart liability where they have a duty to keep public roadways safe for travel.
This would certainly apply pursuant to the amended version of the statute, which calls for political subdivisions "to remove obstructions from public roads."