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Tampa City Council to consider paying woman $100,000 for 2012 fall at Kiley Park

TAMPA — Every slab of concrete, patch of grass and spartan bench in downtown's Kiley Garden was precisely arranged by world-famous landscape architect Dan Kiley.

Measurements align with the Fibonacci sequence: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13. .?.?. Palm trees are 78 feet apart to match the radius of the centerpiece cylindrical skyscraper, Rivergate Tower.

The one thing missing? Guard rails, according to a lawsuit.

On Thursday, the Tampa City Council will decide whether the lack of safety features included in the 2.5-acre, award-winning public park warrants a $100,000 payout to a local wedding photographer injured there five years ago.

Clients frequently asked photographers April Patterson and her husband to stage shoots among the park's angular structures, according to her complaint. But on Oct. 6, 2012, while taking a picture of a wedding party from atop the camouflaged roof of an underground garage stairwell, she took a step backward and fell 10 feet to the concrete driveway below.

The stairwell roof that Patterson was standing on had no safety railings or warning signs, and was "easily accessible from the adjacent grassy area and often sees citizens of all ages sitting and walking on it," the lawsuit states.

The fall left permanent injuries to her spine and heels that were so severe they caused "impairment, disability and disfigurement," according to the court record. Legal representatives for Patterson and her husband, who is also seeking damages with a loss of consortium claim, could not be reached for comment.

While the city of Tampa maintains the garden, the building's owners share a joint responsibility with the city for the two-story garage built beneath it, according to a pending City Council resolution that would grant the settlement.

The lawsuit names the city of Tampa, Rivergate Building Owners, Rivergate Acquisition Co. and In-Rel Properties, claiming all parties "had a duty to correct this dangerous condition and/or warn of its existence, which the defendants failed to do."

City Council member Mike Suarez, who operates his insurance business from inside Riverside Tower, is frequently a visitor. Suarez said he's never heard of another injury like Patterson's happening in the park, but agreed that its aging infrastructure poses a number of potential problems.

"Nowadays the park certainly leaves a lot to be desired, people can fall down and do all sorts of things when walking around in this design that never quite matched up to Kiley's original vision," Suarez said. "I'm sure at some point the city administration will have to figure out how to improve it, but they haven't yet and it's something we aren't going to put a lot of money into until we know what the plan is."

After a five-hour mediation hearing on Aug. 29, the Pattersons consented to signing a hold harmless agreement with the city of Tampa in exchange for a $100,000 settlement. The status of negotiations with other parties is unclear.

"After investigation of the facts involved and taking into consideration that should a verdict be rendered in this case, it could exceed the sum offered in compromise settlement, the Legal Department recommends that said offer of compromise settlement be accepted," the resolution says.

City Council members will vote on whether to grant the settlement, paid out of the city's insurance fund, when they meet at 9 a.m. Thursday in City Hall.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

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