Case details

Driver: Roadway’s dangerous condition caused crash





Result type

Not present

back, chest, fracture, leg, neck, rib, transverse process, vertebra
On the evening of March 14, 2009, plaintiff Lam Sinh, 26, a waiter, was traveling east on E. 3rd Street in San Bernardino, near the San Bernardino International Airport, while plaintiff Long Nguyen, 57, a retiree, was in the front, passenger seat. As Sinh approached the intersection of Sterling Avenue, with the intent of making a left turn, he collided head-on with a vehicle operated by Aati Fanene, who was in the far left westbound lane of E. 3rd Street, closest to the center line. Sinh suffered a fractured femur, as well as lacerations and abrasions, while Nguyen suffered multiple bodily fractures and from the accident. Sinh and Nguyen sued the owner and maintainer of the roadway the city of San Bernardino. They alleged that the city failed to properly maintain E. 3rd Street, creating a dangerous condition within the meaning of Government Code §§ 830 and 835. The plaintiffs claimed that when Sinh approached the intersection of E. 3rd Street and Sterling Avenue, the roadway markings, particularly the double yellow centerline, lacked any retroreflectivity due to the lack of maintenance and were, thus, virtually nonexistent. They also claimed that the striping and markings on the portion of roadway where Sinh was deciding to make a left turn were so badly deteriorated and lacking in retroreflectivity that they provided no meaningful information upon which Sinh could base his decision. Sinh contended that he was misled by the lack of roadway markings, and attempted the left turn without realizing he was crossing into the opposing lane of travel. Plaintiffs’ counsel argued that the city had allowed the double centerline and other pavement markings to lose their retroreflectivity and became so faded that they fell far below the standard of retroreflectivity required under the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Counsel further argued that without adequate retroreflectivity, motorists were not provided the appropriate information about the roadway to allow them to safely negotiate the curve and left turn at the location in question. Plaintiffs’ counsel further argued that city employees negligently failed to inspect the roadway striping and markings for retroreflectivity and failed to adequately maintain the painted median buffer (which had been removed by the city without proper engineering authorizations), and the retroreflectivity of the left turn lane and the centerline. In addition, counsel contended that the street had not been restriped in approximately 10 years. Plaintiffs’ counsel offered proof of 25 prior vehicular accidents, including two collisions that resulted in fatalities and three prior accidents involving vehicles traveling in opposing directions, to corroborate their contention that the roadway was dangerous. The city acknowledged that while the street striping and pavement markings were not retroreflective, the street was last restriped in 2007. It also claimed that, in any event, the striping was still visible and served to provide adequate guidance to the motoring public. Defense counsel also argued that negligence could not be based on the failure to install street lighting pursuant to California Law. Thus, counsel argued that Sinh was 100 percent responsible for the accident because he was not focused on his driving and allowed his car to drift into the opposing lanes of traffic by reason of inattention. The city contended that its maintenance program was adequate, given its limited resources and therefore, its actions were reasonable within the meaning of Government Code § 835.4, even if the jury found the roadway constituted a dangerous condition. The city further explained that its maintenance program entailed a city employee driving throughout the city to check on the striping, and then outsourcing the painting to a qualified painting contractor (C-18, Inc.). Lastly, the city contended that the 25 prior vehicular accidents was hardly proof of a dangerous roadway because approximately 40 million vehicles had traveled through eastbound E. 3rd Street during the preceding five years and, in context, 25 accidents was minuscule., Both Sinh and Nguyen were transported from the accident scene by ambulance to Loma Linda Medical Center. Nguyen sustained multiple , including C5 and C6 subluxation fractures; C7, C6 and T1 transverse process fractures; two fractured right ribs; bilateral pneumothoraces; a right tibial fracture; acute respiratory distress syndrome; and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus-resistant pneumonia. He was subsequently hospitalized for two months, including rehabilitation. He then followed up with six months of physical therapy. Nguyen claimed that he is now completely disabled from any activity requiring mobility as a result of the accident. He alleged that he lives with daily pain, has difficulty breathing, has MRSA, and cannot walk, stand or sit for any length of time without pain. Nguyen also alleged that he can no longer hike, bike, walk, run or enjoy any outdoor activities, as he has minimal mobility. In addition, he claimed that he requires a cane and the assistance of others to walk, and needs to continue treating with a pain management specialist. Thus, Nguyen sought recovery of damages, including past medical costs of $2.1 million and future medical costs of $250,000. He also sought recovery of general damages in the amount of $10 million, as his life expectancy is now 26 years. Sinh suffered a fracture to his right femur and underwent open reduction and internal fixation surgery. He claimed he cannot stand, work or walk for more than a few hours without pain. He alleged that he remains limited in his daily activities to those hours when he can move or work without pain. Thus, Sinh sought recovery of $120,000 in economic loss damages and $450,000 in general damages.
Superior Court of San Bernardino County, San Bernardino, CA

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