Hot Tar Civil Suit Settled

OCEAN CITY- Although the terms have not been disclosed, a civil suit filed by a resort-area resident after burning his feet on a freshly-paved section of Coastal Highway was settled last week.

According to complaint, on May 11, 2018 around 1 p.m., local resident Scott Berry was returning from the beach and crossing Coastal Highway from east to west in the area of 36th Street in a marked crosswalk when he suffered severe burns on both of his feet. The plaintiff crossed Coastal Highway in an area that was recently repaved with fresh asphalt as part of a larger paving project.

The plaintiff originally filed suit in Worcester County Circuit Court against George and Lynch, Inc., the contractor hired by the State Highway Administration (SHA) to complete the Coastal Highway paving project. The case was then moved to U.S. District Court in May 2019. The plaintiff was seeking unspecified damages in excess of $75,000, or what is essentially the jumping-off point for similar civil suits.

The defendant George and Lynch, filed a formal answer to the complaint, seeking a dismissal of the suit. In the formal answer, the defendant denied liability and asserted the plaintiff’s claims were barred by contributory negligence and an assumption of risk. George and Lynch then filed a counter-claim against Traffic and Safety Signs, Inc., the subcontractor responsible for controlling vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the paving project area.

This week, the case was dismissed with prejudice, with all claims “settled, paid and satisfied,” according to court documents. Again, the terms of the settlement have not been made public and are protected by confidentiality clauses, although the base amount the plaintiff was seeking was in excess of $75,000.

According to the complaint, Berry crossed the recently-repaved section of Coastal Highway in a crosswalk and suffered second-degree burns on both of his feet.

“The asphalt where he was crossing Coastal Highway was freshly-laid asphalt and was dangerously hot,” the complaint reads. “As the plaintiff walked across Coastal Highway at a designated pedestrian crosswalk, he suffered severe burns to his feet. Again, the plaintiff was unaware of the dangerously-hot condition of the newly-applied asphalt until he was in the midst of crossing Coastal Highway.”

The complaint asserted there were no warnings posted about the dangerous conditions, nor any barricades to prevent him from crossing.

“There were no warnings posted in the area that the asphalt was dangerously hot or freshly-applied,” the complaint reads. “Although there were flaggers in the vicinity, they did nothing to warn the plaintiff as to the dangerous condition of the asphalt.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.