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Randy Appleton
Randy Appleton
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Watch Your Step in VA Beach’s Town Center

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A fountain sits majestically in the middle of Town Center’s $1.7 million plaza. It’s beautiful, and it’s big. Unfortunately, it’s also dormant most of the time. Why? A perilous combination of imported Turkish marble, water, wind, and (some would say) careless oversight, which creates a perfect storm for injuries, and for lawsuits.

When wind blows through Town Center, water from the fountain blows onto the imported Turkish marble surrounding it. This marble gets wet, and, if you’ve ever fallen down a set of marble stairs in the rain (like I have), you know how incredibly slippery the surface can be when it’s even a teeny bit damp. "It’s very slippery, especially for ladies, and we can’t have any accidents, because of liability," said Amy Cherry of Divar-is Real Estate Inc.

The fountain is equipped with a mechanism that shuts it off when the wind speed reaches 8 mph or over. The problem, however, is that the average wind speed through Town Center is 10.5 mph. "When you combine land with water, you increase your wind speeds," said William Schmitz, climatologist for the Southeast Regional Climate Center. In fact, weather data from a Virginia Beach neighborhood near Town Center showed that wind speeds hit 8 mph on 104 of the first 115 days in 2009.

So why don’t we hear about more fountain-related fall injuries? Because most fountains, in fact nearly all of the fountains in Williamsburg, Newport News, and Norfolk use brick pavers around their fountains, which is rough, and therefore not slippery when wet (not to mention a heck of a lot less expensive).

So as the fountain rests in Town Center on this breezy afternoon, I wonder if this is an example of taxpayer dollars being wasted. Should VA Beach pay to fix the slippery surface to avoid injuries? Or should pedestrians simply use more caution? On whose shoulders does the responsibility rest? I’m a lawyer, not a judge, so it’s not for me to decide. I will say, however, that I’ll be sure to watch my step the next time I walk by the fountain in Town Center.

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm is based in Virginia (VA), near the NE North Carolina (NC) border and handles car, truck, railroad, and medical negligence cases and more. Our lawyers proudly edit the Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono public information service. Lawyers licensed in: VA, NC, SC, WV, DC, KY.

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