Case details

Motorcyclist claimed sign at curve should have been replaced





Result type

Not present

fractured scapula, kidney, pain, ractured mandible, ribs, toe
On Dec. 30, 2011, plaintiff James Nakauchi, 34, was riding a motorcycle on eastbound Interstate 210, also known as the Foothill Freeway, near Glendora, when he exited the northbound Grand Avenue exit to check on his passenger, plaintiff Merida Florez Barillas, 28. Nakauchi then attempted to get back onto I-210, but he encountered a 270-degree curve where a California Department of Transportation sign was missing. As a result, the motorcycle ran off the road, causing Nakauchi and Florez Barillas to be ejected from it. Nakauchi and Florez Barillas sued the state of California, acting by and through its Department of Transportation. Nakauchi and Barillas alleged that Caltrans was negligent in the maintenance of the curve and sign, creating a dangerous condition of the roadway. Plaintiffs’ counsel noted that approximately 2.5 months before the accident, there was an 8-foot by 8-foot Caltrans curve warning/20 mph speed advisory sign that was damaged beyond repair. As a result, a new sign was ordered. However, plaintiffs’ counsel contended that nothing was temporarily installed in place of the damaged sign and that the lack of signs on the curve constituted a dangerous condition. The plaintiffs’ expert in traffic engineering opined that an interim sign, or some other traffic control device, should have been placed at the entrance to the curve, pending the installation of the replacement sign. Caltrans agreed that the sign was damaged beyond repair, that the sign was removed, and that it was in the process of replacing it. However, defense counsel contended there was no dangerous condition, as there were pavement reflectors, exit signing, striping, delineation, and a guardrail at the off-ramp, which Nakauchi and/or Florez Barillas should have seen. Counsel argued that the indicators that were in place would give notice to a driver exercising due care that a curve was ahead and that they were on an off-ramp., Nakauchi and Florez Barillas were both taken to a hospital from the accident scene. Nakauchi fractured his scapula and ribs. His spleen was also ruptured in the accident. Nakauchi was subsequently hospitalized for five days. After six months, Nakauchi’s resolved. Since he was not working at the time of the accident, he did not make any loss of earnings claim. However, he claimed $50,000 in past medical costs and sought recovery of damages for his pain and suffering. Florez Barillas fractured her mandible and a toe, and lacerated a kidney. She also suffered a ruptured pancreas and a spleen injury that required a splenectomy, a surgical procedure to remove her spleen. As a result, she was hospitalized for 10 days and she was left with a keloid scar on her abdomen. Florez Barillas was unemployed at the time of the accident, so she also did not make a loss-of-earnings claim. However, she claimed she still has residual jaw problems due to the fracture. Thus, she sought recovery of $120,000 in past medical costs and an unspecified amount of future medical costs. She also sought recovery of damages for her past and future pain and suffering.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Van Nuys, CA

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