What is a public entities liability for a poorly designed intersection? A recent case, Cole vs. Town of Los Gatos, addressed the issue of a dangerous condition of public property. In this case, the plaintiff (injured party) was parked diagonally on a gravel strip adjacent to the street. She was outside her vehicle, loading it, when she was hit. While another vehicle was stopped on the street to make a left turn, an intoxicated driver attempted to pass the stopped left turning vehicle, by going onto the gravel strip. In so doing, the intoxicated driver struck the plaintiff who was at the rear of her parked car loading a bicycle.
The City was sued on the theory that the area was dangerous because cars frequently passed stopped cars that were making left turns, by going onto the gravel area where cars frequently parked. It was argued that the street configuration allowed or permitted this passing onto the gravel strip, where cars parked. At the trial level, the trial court granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of the City. The plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court reversed, finding in favor of the plaintiff.
There were many reasons why this was reversed. The court stated that the issue was whether the street posed a risk to persons who were exercising due care, which the plaintiff was by just loading her vehicle. The issue was not whether the other driver was intoxicated. And furthermore, intoxicated drivers are foreseeable, contrary to the argument of the City. The City also argued that it was the intoxication that caused the accident, not the passing onto the gravel strip. The appellate court disagreed. Did the condition of the street increase or intensify the danger to users from third party conduct? The court held that a jury could conclude a public entities liability for a poorly designed intersection in this case. And for many reasons, the court found that the City had notice of this dangerous condition. Notice of a dangerous condition is another requirement when suing a public entity.
This is a very helpful case for those who have been injured in a car accident due to a poorly designed intersection, street or other public entity locations. Here, even with the intoxicated driver who hit the plaintiff, the court concluded that a jury could find that it was the dangerous condition that caused the accident. What a jury will end up doing (or did end up doing) is unknown. A jury could still have put a lot of the negligence or liability on the driver, who likely did not have a lot of insurance.
If you have been injured due to a public entities liability for a poorly designed intersection we invite you to review the strong recommendations of our clients and the legal industry and contact us or call 949-305-1400 to speak with Rivers Morrell personally for a free consultation.