Loose Manhole Cover Causes Fatal Traffic Accident


Road Maintenance Expert WitnessThis case involves a manhole cover that was located on a high speed and high traffic section of road in the suburbs of a major Northwestern city. At the time of the incident in question it was noted that the stretch of road surrounding the manhole cover had become severely worn, and that the cover was loose. The decedent was driving on the road at a high rate of speed, but under the marked speed limit, when a car in front of his impacted the manhole cover, sending it flying into the air. The manhole cover then impacted the decedent’s windshield, killing the driver instantly.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your background and experience as it relates to manhole cover maintenance and inspections.

Expert Witness Response E-061570

I have 30 years of experience relating to manhole cover maintenance and inspections, including 25 years as a Design Engineer on transportation and municipal projects. As a Municipal Engineer, I was responsible for a 250 mile roadway network including storm water management structures (manholes) and a 265 mile sanitary sewer network. I am a licensed professional engineer in nine states. I have opined on similar manhole cases including a plaintiff case involving a trip and fall due to a defective manhole and a defense case involving a motorcycle striking a manhole cover. There exist no standards regarding the inspection intervals for manholes, outside of certain utility company standards, which typically dictate annual inspections. However, in most states, the roadway owner is responsible for maintenance of the roadway surface which would include the elevation of the surface of the manhole. The structure of the manhole, including the integrity of the cover is usually the responsibility of the utility served by the manhole. Most jurisdictions inspect roadway surfaces annually. Manholes should not be located in the vehicle wheel paths on high speed/high volume highways. When specifying castings, traffic volume, traffic loading, traffic speed, etc, should be considered in the selection of the manhole casting. Manholes can always be moved, and their locations can be adjusted in relation to the road surface.

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