PORTLAND (AP) – The Maine Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld an exception to the state’s tort claims law by ruling a woman could not sue the city for injuries she suffered when she fell outside a public school.

In a 4-3 ruling, the Supreme Court held that the Maine Tort Claims Act, which prohibits the government from claiming immunity from lawsuits involving public buildings, does not extend to sidewalks or parking lots outside such buildings.

Justices said that if they were to decide otherwise, municipalities could be sued over incidents that occurred within a larger radius around public buildings.

Kimberly Donovan claimed she went to Riverton Elementary School to pick up her children from an after-school program on Nov. 9, 1999, when she fell and injured her arm as she walked toward the school’s entrance.

Donovan had not reached the school or its stairs when she fell, according to court documents.

Donovan’s lawsuit alleged the city was “negligent in its ownership” of the school building because it was insufficiently lit after dark, which she claimed contributed to her fall.

While the Maine Tort Claims Act says that all government entities shall be immune from lawsuits on tort claims seeking recovery damages, a select number of government holdings exist outside of such immunity.

The court said in its ruling that if it were to rule in favor of Donovan’s claim, municipalities could be sued for incidents that occurred within a larger proximity to a government building.

“Obviously this was a decision that gave the law court some pause, said Marshall Tinkle, a Portland attorney arguing the suit. Tinkle noted the split decision and that it took six months for the court to decide.

“We thought the dissent had the better argument, but those are the breaks,” Tinkle said.


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