Weekly Law Resume - October 13, 2011: Dangerous Condition of Public Property Requires that Physical Condition of the Property Contribute to the Injury

by Low, Ball & Lynch
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Jose Salas, et al. v. California Department of Transportation Court of Appeal, Third District (August 29, 2011)

This case examines what a plaintiff must prove when alleging that an intersection or roadway constitutes a dangerous condition.

At approximately 7:00 a.m. on October 21, 2006, pedestrian Paula Salas was hit by a car while crossing State Route 12 at an intersection. At the moment she was hit, Salas was slightly outside the crosswalk. She later died from her injuries.

Salas' family and Estate subsequently filed a wrongful-death and survivor action against the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), alleging "dangerous condition of public property" pursuant to Government Code Section 835. Plaintiffs premised their dangerous condition argument on improper signage, improper crosswalk placement, lack of traffic signals or safety devices, and lack of traffic enforcement. Caltrans moved for summary judgment on the basis that: (1) no physical aspect of the crosswalk caused the incident; and (2) there were no prior pedestrian/vehicle incidents at the crosswalk. Each side submitted declarations and the trial court sustained most of Caltrans' objections to one of the declarations supporting Plaintiffs' opposition. Ultimately, the trial court granted the motion filed by Caltrans, finding the intersection did not constitute a dangerous condition. Plaintiffs appealed. The Third District affirmed.

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