Do you know the guidelines set by the California Supreme Court to proving dangerous roadway cases in California?
This issue was recently ruled on by the California Supreme Court in Cordova v. City of L.A. The case developed after two vehicles, which were in excess of the speed limit, collided on Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock. The second vehicle was forced onto the median, where it struck a small group of trees, killing three occupants. The driver of the first vehicle, which struck the second vehicle, was found “criminally negligent” and convicted of vehicular manslaughter charges.
In dangerous roadway cases, the plaintiff must prove that there are circumstances where the condition of the roadway creates a “substantial risk of injury even when all of the motorists involved are exercising due care.”
Here are the two items outlined by the Supreme Court, as described by Roger Booth of Booth & Koskoff:
Plaintiffs need to prove that the condition of the public property “created a substantial risk of injury and in fact caused the injury at issue.” Nothing in the statutory language requires plaintiffs to prove that the condition caused the crash. The injury, after all, is the reason why a lawsuit exists. In this specific case, if there had been a “clear recovery zone” that allowed the vehicle to come to rest without incident, there would have been nothing much to talk about. It was the dangerous location of the tree that turned a routine fender bender into a tragedy for the plaintiffs.
The “used with due care” requirement is a general inquiry into the condition of the roadway, not the facts of the specific crash at issue. In Cordova, the allegedly dangerous proximity of the trees to Colorado Blvd. could have caused serious injuries in the absence of any negligent driving. Vehicles could have ended up on the center median as a result of mechanical failure, sudden illness, animals in the road, etc. (As a practice pointer, it is worth noting that if plaintiff’s counsel can present evidence of actual prior crashes that occurred without any apparent negligent driving, that would go a long way towards proving the “risk of injury when used with due care” element.)
For a more extended explanation of the new ruling on dangerous roadway cases, please visit the Booth & Koskoff Personal Injury website.
Photo by Modestas Urbonas via Unsplash.