Dog walker sues city after falling into broken drain
13 April 2013
Man claims he has been unable to continue in his canine business
He should have watched where he was going.
This is one of the defences the City of Cape Town has raised in a R1.8 million damages action lodged by a well-known professional dog-walker who fell through a broken stormwater drain cover.
The action, being heard in the Western Cape High Court, relates to an incident four years ago on a public road in the plush suburb of Oranjezicht.
Adam James, who operated the dog-walking business known as Who let the Dogs Out, claims in papers before the court that the city is responsible for the maintenance of the road and that it failed to take steps to ensure that the surface of the road was not dangerous.
In addition, he alleges that the city failed to warn him or the public of the danger that the broken drain cover posed.
As a result of the fall, he sustained severe injuries to his leg, and says that he still experiences pain as a result. In addition, he hasn’t been able to continue his dog-walking business.
However, the city says that it relies largely on the public to inform it about the broken drain covers and that, in the case before court, it was not aware that the drain needed to be repaired.
Responding to allegations that it failed to warn the public, the city alleged that putting up a safety barrier in front of the drain would in itself have constituted a hazard to the public and exposed them to the risk of injury.
Should the court find that James indeed injured himself by falling through the broken drain cover, however, the city will say that he was partly to blame for failing to keep a proper lookout.
Testifying in court this week, James’s wife Ann spoke of the effect that the incident has had on their lives. She said that at the time of the incident James had agreements in place to walk several dogs and he charged rates of between R600 to R850 a month. He earned nearly R6 000 a month from dog walking.
However, after he was injured most of the dog owners made alternative arrangements. Currently he walks only three dogs – Indiana, who has been with him since 2002, Google and Milo – and earns a little over R2 000 a month.
Under cross-examination, she was asked about a dog crèche, which her husband ran from a local park in Gardens for a short period before the incident.
Dog owners would take their pets to the park and leave the canines there with James for several hours. It was put to her that there was nothing that stopped her husband from restarting the crèche business again because it was not as demanding as dog walking.
She responded, however, that the crèche did not work when the weather was bad.
The case continues on Monday.