Case details

Defense argued crosswalk was not a dangerous condition





Result type

Not present

ankle, emotional distress, fracture, leg, leg ankle, mental, psychological
On Jan. 23, 2013, plaintiff David Reed, 58, a collector for Goodwill, was crossing a marked crosswalk, with a pedestrian advisory sign, at the intersection of Mission Boulevard/Highway 1 and Van Ness Avenue in Santa Cruz. While in the crosswalk, Reed was struck by a Honda Accord operated by Lisa Spencer, who was traveling in the number one (fast) lane of the two lane roadway. Reed sustained to his leg. Reed sued Spencer and the believed maintainers of the intersection, the city of Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Spencer ultimately settled out of the case after agreeing to tender her policy limits. The city and transit district were dismissed from the case by way of summary judgment. Thus, the matter continued against Caltrans only. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that the crosswalk lacked numerous warnings, signs, symbols and lights, creating a dangerous condition of public property. Counsel also contended that there was inadequate sight distance and ineffective advisory signs for the crosswalk. The plaintiff’s human factors expert opined that if there were substantial warnings for the crosswalk, then the driver would have noticed Reed and the accident would not have occurred. Caltrans’ counsel argued that the sole cause of the accident was the distracted driver, who failed to yield to Reed, who was rightfully in the intersection and had entered with plenty of space for the driver to yield. Counsel also argued that the crosswalk did not constitute a dangerous condition. The defense’s expert engineer, a former employee of Caltrans at the time the roadway was improved with crosswalks, testified about the history of the intersection., Reed was taken by ambulance to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, in San Jose, where he underwent surgery to repair numerous compound fractures of his lower leg and ankle. As Reed had a pre-existing vascular condition, his fractures had to be addressed via external fixation. He then underwent physical therapy and was cared for by his father, a physician, for six months before eventually returning to work. Reed claimed that he will likely develop arthritic conditions in his leg and that his work-life expectancy would be shortened. He currently lives in assisted living. The plaintiff’s psychology expert opined that Reed’s condition caused him to be unable to participate in work and that the limited work that Reed was able to perform led to low self-esteem and depression. The expert added that Reed suffers trepidation when crossing the street and that a big part of Reed’s identity was to go to his job by taking the bus, so he may not be able to continue working in the future. Thus, the expert opined that Reed would likely become reclusive in the future. Reed claimed that his medical expenses exceeded $400,000, which the parties stipulated to. Thus, during closing arguments, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Reed $750,000 in total damages.
Superior Court of Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz, CA

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