Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case requiring the court to discuss whether the lower court was proper to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim in a pre-trial motion for summary judgment. The lower court based its decision to dismiss the case on its finding that the defendant did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care. Ultimately, on appeal, the court concluded that the defendant may have owed the plaintiff a duty of care, and therefore it reversed the lower court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.
The plaintiff was injured in a car accident when the vehicle in which she was traveling entered an intersection during a power outage and was struck by another motorist. At the time of the collision, the traffic light was not illuminated despite the fact that the traffic light had a back-up battery power source.
The defendant was a private company that was contracted by the city to perform the necessary maintenance on the back-up battery systems in all of the city’s traffic lights. Evidently, earlier in the year, the back-up battery system in the traffic light at the intersection where the accident occurred was failing to hold a charge. The defendant eventually installed a new battery pack in the light in August. However, a new battery was not placed in the unit, so the light was left without a functioning back-up power source.