Jeff Passolt, longtime Fox 9 news anchor and Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductee, is a Minnesotan. He knows what to expect when winter hits and the whole metro becomes a skating rink.
But one February day two years ago, he encountered a treacherous situation even he couldn't handle. Passolt had just finished interviewing then-Governor Mark Dayton at the Capitol in St. Paul. He was heading back to where he’d parked his car -- outside the Minnesota Judicial Center, near the corner of Cedar Street and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
He was approaching the sidewalk on the opposite side of Cedar Street and noticed some salt “or some other surface compound” on the pavement. Probably, he surmised, someone had treated the sidewalk to make it less slippery.
He “stepped carefully” over the curb. Upon making contact with the pavement, his left foot shot out from under him and he tumbled onto the concrete.
It was a pretty nasty fall, it turns out. So nasty, in fact, that Passolt filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Administration on Tuesday, claiming negligence on behalf of the state.
“Passolt claims that there are products available that, when applied to sidewalks like the one where he fell, will provide traction to pedestrians even through changing conditions,” the complaint says. “And Passolt claims that the Minnesota Department of Administration’s negligence was a direct cause of Passolt’s fall and injury on February 7, 2017.”
Passolt is also claiming the fall “seriously and permanently injured him.” He told the Star Tribune that his recovery had been complicated by his diabetes, and the lawsuit alleges past and future “pain, disability, disfigurement, embarrassment, and emotional distress” as a result. He’s now awaiting a hip replacement. (Dayton, incidentally, sent Passolt flowers after his injury.)
The anchor is asking for in excess of $50,000 in damages from the state. The department didn’t respond to interview requests, but on Wednesday, it sent out a response to the lawsuit laying the blame squarely at Passolt’s feet, saying the fall was the result of his own negligence, or that of others, which it has no control over.
It wouldn’t be Minnesota if people didn’t immediately start arguing about how slick the sidewalk could have been, or how much more careful Passolt could have been -- and you can find a bit of that on Twitter. But we won’t know who gets the upper hand in this dispute until it goes before a Ramsey County District Court Judge.
In the meantime, be careful out there. It’s slippery.