Government Liability News Update

by | Apr 23, 2024 | News



The Kansas Court of Appeals recently reviewed a pair of decisions involving the duty owed by the City of Topeka to pedestrians crossing the Kansas Avenue Bridge. In both Grey v. City of Topeka, No. 125,338, 2024 WL # 657220, (Kan. App. 2024) (unpublished opinion) and Turner v. City of Topeka, No. 125,339, 2024 WL # 657219, (Kan. App. 2024 (unpublished opinion), pedestrians attempted to cross between the lanes of traffic and failed to clear a gap between concrete barricades in the center of the bridge, resulting in injuries from a 30 foot drop.

Plaintiffs argued the City owed them a duty of care and breached that duty by negligently installing the bridge and allowing the unsafe condition of the gap to remain open without proper signage. The City countered it had no duty to warn of open and obvious dangers, that the “NO FOOT TRAFFIC ACCESS” signage met its obligations under the applicable federal standards, and it was immune from liability under the discretionary function exemption of the Kansas Tort Claims Act (“KTCA”).

The Kansas Court of Appeals determined the statute imposes the duty on a City to “regulate, warn or guide traffic” in conformity with “the state manual and specifications.” K.S.A. 8-2005(a). However, when the applicable standards do not require the City to act in a specific way, the City’s actions fall within the discretionary exemption to a finding of liability under the KTCA.

The Court concluded that because the standards adopted by the City did not require the bridge to be designed without a gap or the placement of a warning sign, the City’s decision to forgo a warning sign was discretionary. The Court concluded “[e]ven if the City had a duty to warn, because that duty was discretionary under the [adopted standards], the City is immune from liability under the KTCA.”

The general rule holds governmental entities liable for negligently performing or failing to perform duties owed to the public under statute and common law. While these two cases are examples of the exceptions, the government bears the burden to demonstrate justification of such exception.

You may read the full text of these cases at the links provided below to learn more about the application of the KTCA in this context: and

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