This blog has written previously about lawsuits against government entities, but those entries focused on the acts and omissions of government employees. A recent settlement involving the City of Los Angeles and the families of two young girls demonstrates a different type of government lawsuit - a claim for damages caused by a dangerous condition on public property.
The car accident occurred in 2010 at the intersection of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Archwood Street. Two young girls, ages 10 and 12, were walking across Laurel Canyon Boulevard when they were both struck by a car traveling south on the Boulevard. One of the girls was killed, and the other was made a life-long quadriplegic. In suing the city, the girls' families alleged that the intersection was in a dangerous condition because it did not have an operating traffic signal. The trial court initially dismissed the case, but on appeal, the California Court of Appeals ruled that plaintiffs had presented fact issues, including the alleged dangerous condition of the intersection, that required a jury trial. The driver testified that he would not have been distracted if the intersection had been properly signaled.
The case is based upon Sec. 835 of The California Government Code, which permits persons to sue public agencies for damages caused by a dangerous condition on public property. Both sides presented expert engineering testimony to the trial court, and the court of appeals found that the conflicting engineering testimony created a fact issue that required a trial. The plaintiffs' attorneys estimated that the City could have been required to pay as much as $50 million in damages if it had not settled.
Anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one in an accident occurring on public property may wish to consult a lawyer who specializes in such cases. A knowledgeable attorney can provide a helpful evaluation of the facts of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "L.A. to pay $15 million to settle suit filed by family of girl killed at NoHo crossing," Emily Alpert Reyes, Dec. 9, 2015