Woodland Hills personal injury attorney Barry P. Goldberg is seeing more and more serious pedestrian accidents at crosswalks. In fact, Mr. Goldberg recently posted articles on the most dangerous intersections for pedestrian accidents in Woodland Hills. However, nearby Canoga Park is notorious for many serious and even fatal auto versus pedestrian accidents. A common question involves whether the City bears some responsibility for maintaining an unsafe crosswalk without proper warnings.
The City is usually immune from liability, except in certain circumstances.
The Government Code Immunity.
Government Code section 830.4 states: “A condition is not a dangerous condition within the meaning of this chapter merely because of the failure to provide regulatory traffic control signals, stop signs, yield right-of-way signs, or speed restriction signs, as described by the Vehicle Code, or distinctive roadway markings as described in Section 21460 of the Vehicle Code.”
Section 830.8, which is also relevant, states: “Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable under this chapter for an injury caused by the failure to provide traffic or warning signals, signs, markings or devices described in the Vehicle Code. Nothing in this section exonerates a public entity or public employee from liability for injury proximately caused by such failure if a signal, sign, marking or device (other than one described in Section 830.4) was necessary to warn of a dangerous condition which endangered the safe movement of traffic and which would not be reasonably apparent to, and would not have been anticipated by, a person exercising due care.”
The Immunity “Exception”.
“If a condition of public property ‘creates a substantial risk of injury even when the property is used with due care’[citation], a public entity ‘gains no immunity from liability simply because, in a particular case, the dangerous condition of its property combines with a third party’s negligent conduct to inflict injury.’ [Citation.]” (Cordova v. City of Los Angeles (2015) 61 Cal.4th 1099, 1105.)
Section 830.4 “implicitly confers a limited immunity from injury liability on a public entity if that failure is the only basis for fixing such liability. Where, however, the dangerous condition of public property exists for reasons other than or in addition to the ‘mere ’ failure to provide such controls or markings, the public entity is liable for injury therefrom if the conditions of its liability under section 835 are otherwise met.” (Washington v. City and County of San Francisco (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d 1531, 1535‑1536, italics & fn. Omitted.)
Does the Crosswalk or Signals create a trap?
Recently, a California Court of Appeal found, in an unpublished decision, that there existed a question of fact for a jury where a crosswalk was allegedly dangerous not merely because the City failed to install a regulatory traffic signal, but for several additional reasons, including that: (1) the City elected to install the crosswalk in the middle of a busy street, rather than at a corner, and in dangerous proximity to a bus stop; (2) the crosswalk spanned four lanes traveling in two directions in front of a hospital emergency room; and (3) the beacons the City elected to install were positioned in a way which misled pedestrians about whether it was safe to walk across the street.
In serious auto versus pedestrian accidents, an injured pedestrian needs an experienced trial attorney to determine whether an exception to the immunity exists.