Articles Posted in Government Liability

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.

Foggy HighwayOfficial 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.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in a California premises liability lawsuit discussing the state’s trail immunity statute and how it can preclude an accident victim’s recovery. The court ultimately determined that the plaintiff’s case fell within the statute’s grant of immunity and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

Hiking TrailThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a young man who was “ghost hunting” in a park after hours. The boys had snuck into the park at around 3:00 a.m. and were making their way down a steep incline to the trail below.

As the plaintiff was descending the hill, he began to slip. The plaintiff then began to roll head-over-heels down the steep embankment. When he reached the trail, he was traveling with such force that he continued across the trail and over the edge of a 10-foot retaining wall. The plaintiff eventually struck a tree and came to a stop. He suffered debilitating injuries as a result and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city that owned and maintained the park.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in a California car accident case involving the alleged negligence of a police officer. The case required the court to discuss the Government Claims Act and whether the plaintiffs’ non-compliance with the Act should prevent the plaintiffs from proceeding with their case against the government defendants. Ultimately, since the court determined that the government officials involved in the case may have made misleading statements to the plaintiffs and their attorney, the court permitted the plaintiffs’ case to proceed in order for a jury to determine whether the plaintiffs should be excused from compliance with the Act.

Police CarThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were seriously injured when a car driven by a police officer with the L.A. School Police Department (LASPD) ran a red light and crashed into their vehicle. After the accident, but before the plaintiffs were taken to the hospital in an ambulance, the plaintiffs were provided a business card indicating that the responsible party was LASPD. The card listed the LASPD address and website.

Four days after the accident, the plaintiffs’ attorney filed a claim for damages against LASPD. The attorney obtained the complaint form from the LASPD website. The plaintiffs later filed a personal injury case against LASPD. Once the case was filed, certain information was passed, including the name of the officer responsible for the accident as well as the name of the government organization that owned the vehicle, the L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD). The plaintiffs then amended their complaint to add LAUSD.

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