Woman sues University for negligence after breaking ankle on campus

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Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

A woman is suing the University after breaking her ankle on a step concealed by a mat at the Flawn Academic Center in 2017. She is claiming UT knowingly allowed the step to present danger to students, staff and visitors. 

According to the lawsuit, Austin resident Dalia Scott said she was walking from the FAC to the Texas Union to see student showcase projects with a friend in July 2017.

As they left the FAC through a door facing the Union, Scott placed her foot on a step covered by a mat that made the step “visibly indistinguishable” from the level ground. The mat covering the step caused her to twist her ankle and fall to the ground, according to the lawsuit. 

Scott went to St. David’s Medical Center on East 32nd Street that night, where a doctor splinted her ankle and sent her home, according to the lawsuit. After a few days passed without improvement, the lawsuit says Scott went back to the doctor and was referred to a foot injuries surgeon, who performed surgery on her ankle at the South Austin Medical Center. 

According to the lawsuit, Scott started a new job during this time at the St. David’s Medical Center, but she was let go in December 2017. Scott was not physically able to work until April 2018 and did not start a new job until July 2018, according to the lawsuit. 

“As a proximate result of Defendant’s negligence and/or premise defect, Plaintiff had to go to the emergency room and numerous doctors, be hospitalized, have surgery on her right ankle, recuperate for an extended period of time, use crutches and a knee scooter to get around and incurred paid medical bills in excess of $34,000.00,” the lawsuit states. 

UT is also claiming sovereign immunity, or its inability to be sued as a government agent unless the plaintiff proves the University was aware of and did not respond to a defect. According to its response filed two weeks ago, the University wrote Scott also needs to present more credible evidence to prove this incident occurred.

“Defendant UT-Austin also denies each and every, all and singular, the allegations contained in Plaintiff’s Original Petition and demands strict proof thereof,” UT’s response states.

In the lawsuit, Scott argues to waive the University’s sovereign immunity under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. She said the immunity should be waived because UT caused her injury through a premise defect, which is the concealed step, and the University was negligent because the concealed step presented an unreasonable danger.

Although the lawsuit requests UT to pay Scott’s medical bills, it does not contain a claim of relief. Texas law requires that lawsuits state how much the plaintiff seeks monetarily and nonmonetarily. According to the University’s response, the lawsuit must be refiled because this statement is not included. 

Scott has not filed a response to UT’s reply as of Sept. 18, and her lawyer, William Kemp, was unavailable for comment.

“Generally, the University does not comment on ongoing litigation, and it would be inappropriate to say more while the case is in progress,” University spokesperson J.B. Bird said.