Weekly Law Resume - May 3, 2012: Dangerous Condition of Public Property – Physical Characteristics of Property Combined with Third-Party Criminal Conduct

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Sara Cole, et al. v. Town of Los Gatos, et al.

California Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District (April 27, 2012)

In many lawsuits alleging a dangerous condition of public property, the conduct of at least one of the actors in the underlying accident was negligent, reckless or even criminal. In this case, the Court of Appeal reversed summary judgment for the Town of Los Gatos where the plaintiff was struck by an intoxicated motorist in a location the plaintiff alleged to constitute a dangerous condition.

On the afternoon of September 9, 2007, plaintiff Sara Cole was loading a bicycle into the back of her SUV when, in the presence of her three children, she was struck by a vehicle driven by Lucio Rodriguez, who was intoxicated at the time. Cole’s SUV was parked diagonally in a gravel strip between eastbound Blossom Hill Road and Blossom Hill Park in the Town of Los Gatos. Just west of the accident site, the two lanes of eastbound Blossom Hill Road merged to become one lane, and there was no median or turning lane separating eastbound and westbound traffic. A witness, Carrie Cummings, was stopped in the single eastbound lane waiting to make a left turn into her driveway, which was located across the road from where Cole was parked. Cummings submitted a declaration stating that she observed a few cars waiting behind her on eastbound Blossom Hill Road. Cole’s theory of the case was thus that Rodriguez left the road and entered the gravel area to his right in an attempt to pass the waiting cars.

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