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.
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.