June 20--A tree stump in the middle of a downtown St. Paul sidewalk, concealed by a dusting of snow, caused a woman to fall, her lawsuit against the city said. Now, St. Paul is about to settle the case for $124,000.
Judy Steffenhagen, 69, had "significant injuries and significant medical bills" after the Dec. 21, 2011, accident and the dollar amount "was reached during a negotiated settlement," City Attorney Sara Grewing said Thursday.
The City Council is scheduled to approve the settlement Wednesday. The city denies liability, according to the settlement agreement.
Steffenhagen, of Lake City, Minn., had been visiting St. Paul to see a play at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, said Jeremy Stevens, her attorney.
She was walking on Washington Street between St. Peter and Sixth streets "when she was caused to fall by a hidden tree stump in the middle of the sidewalk," her lawsuit said.
The stump was in a circular tree well in the middle of the sidewalk, Stevens said. The city had cut the tree, but a lip of 2-3 inches remained "for a significant period of time," he said. Grewing said she didn't have information about when the tree had been cut down.
"A small amount of snow fell, masking the ability to see the stump when she (Steffenhagen) was on the sidewalk, and she tripped on it and fell," said Stevens, who is based in Rochester.
Steffenhagen sustained "injuries to her body and nervous system" and "suffered great mental and physical pain and anguish," the lawsuit complaint said; it didn't detail her injuries. Stevens said he couldn't elaborate without his client's permission.
Steffenhagen has medical bills that are outstanding and a portion of the settlement goes directly to pay them, according to the settlement agreement.
When the settlement is approved, it will mark the second largest the city has paid this year, behind a $1 million settlement to the families of two children killed and one injured in a landslide in Lilydale Regional Park in 2013. The City Council has also approved paying $144,000 this year to settle four other lawsuits against the police department.
Last year, the city paid almost $1.7 million in claims and litigation costs.
Mara H. Gottfried can be reached at 651-228-5262. Follow her at twitter.com/MaraGottfried.
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