Down The Drain: How North Carolina Municipalities Lost Immunity for Storm Drains in Jennings v. Fayetteville

BY Trent McCotter

When a high school student falls into a city-owned drainage ditch, will the city’s prospects of facing expensive wrongful death litigation hinge on the origin of the water in the ditch? If this scenario happens in North Carolina, the answer might be yes. As the law currently stands after the North Carolina Court of Appeals case Jennings v. City of Fayetteville,TT if the ditch carried storm water, the municipality will likely face liability—certainly an unappealing prospect in this time of tightened budgets.TT On the other hand, if the ditch carried sewage water, the municipality will likely be immune from the wrongful death claim. In addition to the real-world implications for injured parties and cash-strapped municipalities, this seemingly arbitrary distinction between sewers and storm drains reveals the confusing nature of North Carolina law on government immunity.

DOWNLOAD PDF | 88 N.C. L. Rev. 2272 (2010)