California Court Discusses Design Immunity in Recent Personal Injury Case Filed Against Caltrans

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case discussing the potential liability of Caltrans in a design defect lawsuit brought by motorists injured in an accident that they claim was caused in part by Caltrans’ decision not to include rumble strips along the shoulder of the highway. The case required the court to determine if the Caltrans official responsible for approving the design exercised discretion when determining not to include the rumble strips.

Official Immunity

When someone is injured in a car accident, and they believe the accident to have been caused by a dangerous condition of the roadway, they may pursue a claim against the government. The government, however, is afforded immunity from many of these cases. One type of immunity is design immunity.

Design immunity prevents a government from being held liable for the discretionary decisions made by government officials when carrying out their duties. In order for this immunity to attach, the government agency or official must be able to establish that their actions involved the exercise of discretion. If the government’s actions were ministerial, immunity will not attach.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs’ claim in the case mentioned above was that the government was negligent for not installing rumble strips along the side of the highway. In support of their claim, the plaintiffs submitted an affidavit from the official in charge of designing the road, indicating that the official never considered the use of rumble strips because they were not widely used back when the road was designed in 1992.

The plaintiff claimed that by admitting he did not consider the use of rumble strips, the government official was not exercising discretion. Thus, under the plaintiffs’ reasoning, the decision not to include the rumble strips was not a discretionary decision.

The court, however, disagreed. The court explained that a government meets its burden to establish discretion when it shows that the decision was made by a government official who was given the ability to exercise their own discretion in carrying out the plans. Here, the court explained, it was “irrelevant” that the official did not consider the specific use of rumble strips because the overall design was within his discretion. In sum, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ narrow definition of discretion, favoring what it found to be a more natural definition.

Have You Been Injured in a California Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While the case discussed above did not result in a favorable outcome for the plaintiff, it illustrates the concept that there may be more than one potentially liable party in a car accident. The dedicated California personal injury lawyers at Sharifi Firm have extensive experience assisting accident victims in a wide range of personal injury cases, including car and truck accidents. Call 866-422-7222 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

California Court Upholds City’s Assertion of Trail Immunity in Recent Personal Injury Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, April 5, 2018

Establishing Liability in California Premises Liability Claims, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, March 21, 2018

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