Case details

Failure to inspect driveway traffic caused crash: plaintiff





Result type

Not present

right leg
On July 17, 2008, plaintiff Randy Hunwardsen, 49, an owner/operator of a recycling company, was riding his Harley Davidson east on State Route 104, also known as Twin Cities Road, past the main commercial driveway of a shopping center in Galt, when an automobile driven by Eluterio Morales attempted to make a left turn out of the driveway, onto westbound SR-104, and struck Hunwardsen’s right foot. Hunwardsen subsequently required a below-the-knee amputation to his right leg. Hunwardsen sued Morales and the owners of the shopping center. He alleged that Morales was negligent in the operation of the motor vehicle. He also alleged that the owners of the shopping center were negligent in the construction and maintenance of the shopping center and driveway. Plaintiff’s counsel asserted that Morales was negligent by failing to keep a proper lookout. Counsel contended that neither Hunwardsen nor Morales could see each other due to an obstruction to their vision created by a vehicle in the adjacent eastbound lane, to Hunwardsen’s right, that was slowing to make a right turn into the main commercial driveway of the shopping center. Counsel further contended that this unsafe condition was created by the shopping center owners. According to plaintiff’s counsel an investigation via the California Public Records Act revealed 18 prior substantially similar collisions between left turning vehicles from the main driveway of the shopping center, and vehicles in the first eastbound lane of SR-104. Counsel claimed that the investigation also revealed that before the shopping center opened in 2003, its owners had been warned by their own consulting traffic engineer that as traffic volume grows on SR-104 due to the shopping center and residential construction in the area, left turns out of the main driveway would need to be addressed. Furthermore, counsel claimed that the development agreement between the city of Galt and the shopping center owners/developers contained a condition that the driveway be monitored and left turns eliminated when it became a public safety issue. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel asserted that the owners and operators of the shopping center did nothing to inspect or monitor the operation of driveway traffic. Moreover, counsel contended that the owners of the shopping center failed to erect a stop sign for outbound driveway traffic, as called for on the site plans, and failed to maintain the stop pavement markings and stop bar that had been painted on the driveway when the shopping center opened. Plaintiff’s counsel further contended that the owners of the shopping center had a nondelegable duty to inspect and maintain its property in a safe condition so as to avoid creating an unsafe condition on its property and the adjacent property, i.e., the adjacent public highway. Morales claimed that he stopped at the end of the main driveway, saw a vehicle turning right into the driveway, thought it was clear, and then accelerated forward. However, he claimed that as he accelerated, Hunwardsen suddenly came into view, but that he could not stop in time to avoid the collision. Morales contented that this unsafe condition was created by the shopping center owners. Counsel for the shopping center owners moved for summary judgment on the issue of duty, but it was denied. The shopping center owners claimed that the accident occurred as a result of Morales’ negligent conduct when he exited the shopping center in a haphazard manner. The owners’ counsel noted that eyewitnesses claimed that Morales failed to stop before exiting the driveway and that he sped into oncoming traffic. The shopping center owners contended that they owed no duty to Hunwardsen to inspect and/or monitor a state highway for any traffic conditions. They contended that, as an owner of the highway, it was CalTrans’ and/or the city of Galt’s duty to maintain, inspect and/or monitor state and/or public highways. Furthermore, their counsel asserted that the development agreement pertaining to the shopping center specifically placed the duty of inspecting and/or monitoring the state highway adjacent to the shopping center with the city’s traffic engineer, and that the development was approved by the city and CalTrans. The shopping center owners claimed that, prior to the accident, neither CalTrans nor the city notified them about being required to take any measures on their property relative to the traffic conditions on the state highway. The owners’ counsel asserted that a private entity and/or individual are not required to take affirmative action to inspect and/or monitor state highways and/or public roads, and that this is left to public entities. Additionally, the shopping center owners claimed that they had no knowledge of the other traffic accidents that occurred on the state highway and their counsel claimed that no such evidence was discovered to the contrary., Hunwardsen sustained significant comminuted fractures of the right mid-foot, a comminuted fracture of the cuboid bone, a completely dislocated first metatarsal bone, lacerations of the second and third toes, fracture dislocations of the second and third metatarsals, dislocated fourth and fifth metatarsophalangeal joints and their respective metatarsals. He also sustained significant comminuted fractures of the distal tibia with traumatic ankle arthrotomy on the medial side, a pulverized tibialis anterior tendon and the complete degloving of soft tissue over the entire medial portion of the foot and the dorsomedial foot. Hunwardsen was subsequently taken by ambulance to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where his mangled foot was debrided and pinned. It was ultimately determined that the foot would not heal properly, or become functional, so a below-the-knee amputation was done on July 24, 2008. Hunwardsen was no longer able to work in the yard of his recycling center and transitioned to office work as a result of his amputated leg. He also claimed the injury has affected many aspects of his daily life. Though Hunwardsen claimed no loss for earnings, he did claim $511,325 in medical bills. He also claimed that he will require maintenance and periodic replacement of his prosthesis.
Superior Court of Sacramento County, Sacramento, CA

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