In an appeal before the California Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, the appellate court reviewed a grant of summary judgment in favor of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and a construction company for negligence related to a car accident. The court reviewed the admissible evidence submitted by the plaintiff in an effort to defeat the summary judgment motion, and it concluded that there was not a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether a dangerous condition caused the plaintiff’s accident.
Thomas Glage had been driving home from dinner at the Gilroy Elks Lodge when he made a left turn from the driveway of the Lodge onto Highway 152 and was struck by a vehicle. He claimed that due to a construction project, his view of westbound traffic had been obscured, thereby creating a dangerous condition. He filed a lawsuit against Caltrans and the construction company for personal injuries and property damage, alleging negligence and damages from a dangerous condition on public property.
The defendants moved for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court. The court held that the defendants had met their burden of showing there was no evidence that they created a dangerous condition at the accident scene, and Mr. Glage had not provided evidence of a triable issue of material fact. Mr. Glage appealed.
The appellate court stated that the evidence that had been submitted through Mr. Glage and his son included their observations of the accident scene four days after the accident. But the court stated there had not been evidence showing that the conditions were the same four days after the accident. Mr. Glage had not shown that on the night of the accident, there had been any visual obstructions to oncoming westbound traffic. In fact, the court stated Mr. Glage’s opposition evidence was speculation.
The court stated the rule that speculation cannot work to avoid summary judgment, but instead there must be admissible evidence raising a triable issue of fact. Lay witnesses’ opinions must be rationally based on their perception.
Here, the appellate court stated it was proper for the court to sustain objections to two declarations that offered opinions regarding the accident. It had been improper for the Glages to opine that the conditions on the accident site four days later showed line-of-sight obstructions to the view of westbound traffic on Highway 152 on the day of the accident. Not only did the opinion lack a proper foundation, but also the basis of the opinion was speculative.
John Glage’s testimony was excluded because it was improper lay opinion testimony. There had not been evidence that he was present at the accident scene, and he had no personal knowledge to support his opinion.
The appellate court stated that the evidentiary objection had been properly sustained by the lower courts.
Regarding the grant of summary judgment on the negligence claim, the court stated the elements necessary to prove negligence: duty, breach, causation, and damages. The court stated that causation requires showing that the defendant’s act or omission was a substantial factor in bringing about the injury. When a defendant asserts in its summary judgment motion that the plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case of causation, summary judgment may be proper to avoid a “useless” trial.
Here, Mr. Glage contended that the defendants carelessly and negligently maintained the construction site, and their negligence proximately resulted in Mr. Gage’s injuries. The appellate court stated that while he likely did or could establish legal duty, he did not offer evidence of the elements of breach or causation. Here, the appellate court stated that the defendants showed Mr. Glage had been driving when he stopped and saw no vehicles approaching westbound and one in the distance eastbound that did not pose a problem for him. Mr. Glage testified that he was not sure there had been obstructions to his view of westbound traffic, and he did not have photographs or other evidence from the night of the accident that showed visual obstructions. The appellate court stated Mr. Glage had not presented evidence that the defendants negligently maintained the area at the intersection of Highway 152, nor did they do anything that caused Mr. Glage’s damages. The appellate court stated summary adjudication of the negligence claim was proper.
Finally, regarding the dangerous condition claim, the court stated that to show public entity liability for injuries stemming from a dangerous condition, the plaintiff must show a dangerous condition of public property, a foreseeable risk of harm of the kind that the plaintiff suffered, either negligence or a failure to correct the harm, causation, and damages. Here, while Mr. Glage asserted that at the time of the accident, Caltrans created obstructions and barriers to drivers, leading to a dangerous condition of public property, he had not presented admissible evidence supporting the elements of the dangerous condition claim. Since Mr. Glage had not met his burden of proof regarding the existence of a dangerous condition, summary adjudication of this second cause of action was properly granted.
The court affirmed the order granting summary judgment.
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