California Court Affirms Judgment in Favor of City Because Injured Plaintiff Had Not Sufficiently Pled Facts Showing City’s Duty to Light Crosswalk

Recently, the issue of sufficient pleadings to state a cause of action came before a California Court of Appeal. In an unpublished opinion, the court held that a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit alleging a dangerous condition of public property must show the specific facts that are necessary to the cause of action.  Here, the court reviewed whether the trial court committed an error in supporting the City of Los Angeles’ demurrer without leave to amend.

Alvaro Aura was crossing the street in a crosswalk at 11:00 p.m. when he was hit by a car and suffered significant injuries. Mr. Aura submitted a claim for $1,000,000 in damages to the City of Los Angeles, filed under Government Code section 905.  His claim was denied, and he then sued the City a few months later, alleging that his injuries were caused by a dangerous condition of public property in violation of section 835.

Specifically, Mr. Aura’s complaint alleged that the single overhanging lamp was hidden by overgrown trees, the crosswalk was dark such that individuals could not be seen by motorists, and pedestrians could not see motorists in the crosswalk.  Mr. Aura contended that the City knew or should have known of the dangerous condition, and it should have taken measures to repair or protect against it. The City demurred to the complaint, contending that it did not have a duty to light the street or maintain lighting.  The trial court supported the demurrer without leave to amend. Mr. Aura appealed.

The appellate court stated their standard on demurrer – to determine whether the complaint states sufficient facts to constitute a cause of action.  California courts have also held that plaintiffs in statutory causes of action must set forth facts that are sufficiently detailed and specific, supporting an inference that each element of liability is satisfied.  Complaints that allege a dangerous condition cannot rely on general allegations. Instead, they must set forth specific facts.

In order to state a cause of action against a municipality under section 835, plaintiffs must show a dangerous condition existed that proximately caused their injury, the condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of harm, and the municipality had notice of the dangerous condition in time to have protected against it.  A dangerous condition on property is one that creates a substantial risk of injury when the property is used in a reasonably foreseeable manner.

Here, the appellate court stated that the general rule is that a municipality does not have a duty to light its streets, even though it has the power to do so. Failing to light them, therefore, is not negligent and will not render it liable for damages. However, some courts have held that a duty to light may arise from a peculiar condition, which makes lighting necessary to make the streets safe for travel.

The appellate court held the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sustaining the City’s demurrer. Mr. Aura’s description of the dangerous condition did not render the crosswalk dangerous without light. In other words, the court stated that a lack of light, whether from faulty street lamps or obscuring branches, did not make the crosswalk dangerous.  In this case, there was no “other factor” making the crosswalk dangerous. Instead, Mr. Aura focused on the tree branches that obscured the streetlight.  It was obvious that the crosswalk was dark. The court stated that the City had no duty to light the crosswalk.

Since Mr. Aura did not provide a  proposed amendment that might cure the defect in his complaint, the appellate court stated he did not satisfy his burden of showing the trial court abused its discretion in denying him leave to amend.

The appellate court affirmed the judgment in favor of the City.

The car accident attorneys at Sharifi Firm provide legal representation to victims and their families throughout Southern California in personal injury claims for compensation. Contact our office today for a free consultation at 866-422-7222 or complete our online form.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Holds Sham Pleading Did Not Apply in California Car Accident Case When Plaintiffs Were Unclear on Factual Basis for Liability, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, July 22, 2016

California Court of Appeals Holds Collateral Estoppel Bars Relitigation Issue Determined in Small Claims Proceeding, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, April 14, 2016

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