The Taiwan High Court rendered the 106-Chung-Shang-Kuo-11 Decision of August 6, 2019 (hereinafter, the “Decision”), holding that if a citizen’s life, body or property is injured due to inadequate installation or management of public infrastructure, the state should be liable for damages. Therefore, in case an agency has failed to properly maintain a Jersey barrier after it is installed, if an accident occurs because the Jersey barrier is dangling in the air and not completely put on the surface of the road upon occurrence of an accident, the agency shall assume the national compensation liability.
According to the facts underlying this Decision, the victim was the spouse and father of the Appellants. At around 9:25 am on October 25, 2014, the victim had parked his motorcycle by a Jersey barrier set up on the side of the road by an aqueduct in Tuniukou of Yangmei District in Taoyuan City before he returned to place to ride his motorcycle at around 9:37 am on the same day. Since he subsequently fell on the ground after losing his balance, he put his hand on the Jersey barrier at issue to support himself and accidently fell into the aqueduct together with the Jersey barrier, resulting in his death due to traumatic and respiratory shocks caused by his head trauma and inhalation of river water.
According to the Decision, if a citizen’s life, body or property is injured due to inadequate installation or management of public infrastructure, the state should be liable for damages. Inadequate installation of public infrastructure means that defects have initially existed during the construction of the infrastructure, while inadequate management means that the defects which have occurred because the infrastructure has not been properly maintained after its construction or any other incident has taken place are not timely repaired out of negligence after their occurrence. After the Jersey barrier was set up by the Appellee, it was not properly maintained or repaired. Since the Jersey barrier was dangling in the air and not completely put on the surface of the road when the accident at issue took place as a result, the Appellee should be liable for damages.
It was further mentioned in this Decision that under Article 217 of the Civil Code, if the victim has contributory negligence for the occurrence or escalation of a damage, the court may reduce or exempt the damages. In addition, the requirement for contributory negligence also applies even if the compensation obligor should assume a no-fault liability. It is understood that the Jersey barrier was set up at a curve on the surface of the bridge with a warning sign indicating the reduction of lanes ahead of the Jersey barrier. Article 112, Paragraph 1, Subparagraphs 2 and 9 of the Road and Traffic Safety Regulations provide that when a car is parked, the following requirements shall be followed: no car may be parked in any road section with a bend, steep slope or narrow sign or on any location with hatched markings or a traffic island under road reparation; and cars shall not be parked in any location that hinders the passage of other people or vehicles. The victim readily parked his car before the Jersey barrier on a bend, which hindered the passage of other people or vehicles. In addition, the Jersey barrier has cement blocks on one side with the protruding side functioning to bounce a car back to the lane when the car collided slightly with the side of the Jersey barrier in order to prevent the car from flipping out of the highway. The Jersey barrier is not used to support any person. This accident took place in daytime on a sunny day. Therefore, it was objectively not difficult to notice the Jersey barrier. However, when the victim’s bicycle fell to the ground and the victim could not stand up and lift up his motorcycle, he unwittingly pushed and put his hand on the Jersey barrier in order to help himself get up. As a result, he fell into the aqueduct together with the Jersey barrier. Obviously, he was also at fault for the occurrence of the accident at issue.