Defective Public Roads - 23 MRSA 3651

How can a town be made to repair one of its roads?  
If it's still a town road, the laws below may apply.  For further explanation, scroll down the Solutions page.

§3651. Failure to provide safety and convenience
Highways, town ways and streets legally established shall be opened and kept in repair so as to be safe and convenient for travelers with motor vehicles. In default thereof, those liable may be indicted, convicted and a reasonable fine imposed therefor. [1977, c. 363, §5 (AMD).]

1. Legal objects not defects.  Trees, structures and other things which exist in accordance with municipal ordinances are not defects in a public way.
[ 1987, c. 583, §1 (NEW) .]
1977, c. 363, §5 (AMD). 1987, c. 583, §1 (AMD).

§3652. Notice of defect; hearing on petition
When a town liable to maintain a way unreasonably neglects to keep it in repair as provided in section 3651, after one of the municipal officers has had 5 days' actual notice or knowledge of the defective condition, any 3 or more responsible persons may petition the county commissioners for the county, setting forth such facts, who, if satisfied that such petitioners are responsible for the costs of the proceedings, shall fix a time and place near such defective way for a hearing on such petition and cause such notice thereof to be given to the town and petitioners as they may prescribe. At the time appointed, the commissioners shall view the way alleged to be out of repair and hear the parties interested, and if they adjudge the way to be unsafe and inconvenient for travelers, motor vehicles, horses, teams and carriages, they shall prescribe what repairs shall be made, fix the time in which the town shall make them, give notice thereof to the municipal officers and award the costs of the proceedings against the town. If they adjudge the way to be safe and convenient, they shall dismiss the petition and award the costs against the petitioners. If they find that the way was defective at the time of presentation of the petition, but has been repaired before the hearing, they may award the costs against the town, if in their judgment justice requires it.

§3653. Manner of presenting petition
The petition provided for in section 3652 may be presented to the county commissioners at any of their sessions, or in vacation to their chairman, who shall procure the concurrence of his associates in fixing the time and place in the order of notice and cause the petition to be entered at their next session. They shall make full return of their proceedings on the petition and cause the same to be recorded as of their next regular term after the proceedings are closed.

§3654. Failure to comply with commissioners' order; warrant of distress
If the town neglects to make the repairs prescribed by the commissioners under section 3652, within the time fixed therefor in such notice to the town, they may cause it to be done by an agent, not one of themselves. Such agent shall cause the repairs to be made forthwith and shall render to the commissioners his account of disbursements and services in making the same. His account shall not be allowed without such notice to the town as the commissioners deem reasonable. When the account is allowed, the town becomes liable therefor, with the agent's expenses in procuring the allowance of his account and interest after such allowance, and said commissioners shall render judgment therefor against the town in favor of the agent. If a town neglects to pay such judgment for 30 days after demand, a warrant of distress shall be issued by the commissioners to collect the same.

§3655. Personal injury actions; limitations; damages; notice
Whoever receives any bodily injury or suffers damage in his property through any defect or want of repair or sufficient railing in any highway, town way, causeway or bridge may recover for the same in a civil action, to be commenced within one year from the date of receiving such injury or suffering damage, of the county or town obliged by law to repair the same, if the commissioners of such county or the municipal officers or road commissioners of such town or any person authorized by any commissioner of such county or any municipal officer or road commissioner of such town to act as a substitute for either of them had 24 hours' actual notice of the defect or want of repair, but not exceeding $6,000 in case of a town. If the sufferer had notice of the condition of such way previous to the time of the injury, he cannot recover of a town unless he has previously notified one of the municipal officers of the defective condition of such way. Any person who sustains injury or damage or some person in his behalf shall, within 180 days thereafter, notify one of the county commissioners of such county or of the municipal officers of such town by letter or otherwise, in writing, setting forth his claim for damages and specifying the nature of his injuries and the nature and location of the defect which caused such injury. If the life of any person is lost through such deficiency, his executors or administrators may recover of such county or town liable to keep the same in repair, in a civil action, brought for the benefit of the estate of the deceased, such sum as the jury may deem reasonable as damages, if the parties liable had said notice of the deficiency which caused the loss of life. In any action against a town for damages for loss of life permitted under this section, the claim for and award of damages, including costs, against a town and its employees shall be disposed of as provided under Title 18-A, section 2-804, but shall not exceed $25,000 for each claim and $300,000 for any and all claims arising out of a single occurrence. No damages for the loss of comfort, society and companionship of the deceased shall be allowed in an action under this section. At the trial of any such action the court may, on motion of either party, order a view of the premises where the defect or want of repair is alleged when it would materially aid in a clear understanding of the case. [1979, c. 663, §138 (AMD).]

1977, c. 2, §§3,5 (AMD). 1977, c. 578, §7 (AMD). 1977, c. 591, §§4-6 (AMD). 1979, c. 68, §§3,5 (AMD). 1979, c. 663, §138 (AMD).

§3656. Repair within 6 years; location conclusive
When on trial of any such action or indictment as provided for in section 3655 it appears that the defendant county or town has made repairs on the way or bridge within 6 years before the injury, it shall not deny the location of such way or bridge.

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