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Two Hurt By Falling Tree Sue Town

Two people injured by a falling tree on the Merritt Parkway have filed an intent to sue the town of Westport. Attorney Paul Levin notified the town clerk’s office on May 13 of pending litigation on behalf of his clients, Rosewood Dandridge and Dorothea Akins.

“There are telltale signs that people can look for to identify if a tree is a threat or not,” said Levin. Someone missed the danger growing along the roadway, he said. “There are methods  used to evaluate these things. They may not have had a proper formula for evaluating them.”

The plaintiffs were passengers traveling southbound on the Merritt on March 13.  Ahead of them, police were setting up warning signs in front of a fallen tree that blocked the lanes. Dandridge and Akins were in one of the first civilian cars on the scene. As they waited for a clear path around the obstruction, a second tree came crashing down. It struck four vehicles. The two women were taken away for neck and back injuries and trauma.

Levin’s filing with the Westport clerk’s office claims that the town was aware of the risks along that stretch of highway and any remediation efforts were inadequate. High winds were predicted, he says, and response time to earlier downed trees was slow. The accident occurred during the same storms that left much of Westport without power. In some cases, that outage lasted five days.

Before proceeding, the question of responsibility must be resolved. It is unclear if the trees grew in Westport or were within the jurisdiction of the state's Department of Transportation. Fault could be shared or lie with one or the other. Either way, someone didn’t do his or her job according to Levin. “You’re supposed to protect people from the worst case scenario,” he said.

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