Case details

Pedestrian did not have enough time to cross intersection: suit





Result type

Not present

blunt force trauma to the head, brain, brain damage, brain injury, chest, cognition, fracture, head, injuries, internal bleeding, mental, psychological, rib, subdural hematoma, traumatic brain injury
At around 7:25 p.m. on Jan. 21, 2011, plaintiff Talbot Clarke, 20, a sophomore at Santa Clara University, was exiting the university with a male friend and intending to catch a train at the Caltrain station in Santa Clara. As Clarke and her friend were crossing El Camino Real, their traffic light changed to red before they made it across. Subsequently, a van operated by Joyce Caggiano, who was driving in the number three (far right) lane on El Camino Real, was able to avoid hitting Clarke’s friend, but struck Clarke, causing her to be thrown 39 feet and sustain to her head. Talbot Clarke’s mother and conservator, Maureen Clarke, sued the city of Santa Clara and Caggiano. She also brought a separate action against the state of California and the county of Santa Clara. The matters were ultimately joined. Maureen Clarke alleged that Caggiano was negligent in the operation of her vehicle and that the remaining defendants were liable for the intersection being left in a dangerous condition. However, it was ultimately determined that the state owned and/or controlled the location of the accident. As a result, the county was removed from the case via summary judgment and the city was dismissed from the case. The case caption was then amended to only include the state and Caggiano. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that the timing of the traffic light did not provide a pedestrian sufficient time to cross the 110-foot-wide intersection. Counsel also contended that there was no pedestrian countdown timer or pedestrian refuge at the center median. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert testified about sight line perception-reaction time and opined that if there was one more second for the light to remain red, then Caggiano would have slowed her vehicle and Talbot Clarke and her friend would have been able to safely cross. Plaintiff’s counsel noted that after the subject accident, the timing at the intersection was changed to add 10 more seconds for pedestrians and a countdown timer was also added. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that Caggiano was secondarily at fault by failing to stop in time. Counsel noted that as Caggiano approached the intersection, there were vehicles in the number one (far left) and number two (middle) lanes stopped at the crosswalk. Counsel contended that as a result, Caggiano was obligated to slow or stop her vehicle. Caggiano claimed that as she approached the El Camino Real/Railroad Avenue intersection, her light changed from red to green. She also claimed the vehicles in the number one and two lanes obstructed her view and the view of both pedestrians. Thus, Caggiano alleged that as she proceeded toward the intersection, she saw Talbot Clarke’s friend run in front of her vehicle. Caggiano claimed that as a result, she hit the brakes, but could not avoid hitting Talbot Clarke. The state’s counsel contended that Talbot Clarke and her friend began to cross late, when the red “don’t walk” light had already started to flash., Talbot Clarke sustained several fractured ribs and blunt force trauma to her head. She subsequently suffered a subdural hematoma with intracranial bleeding to both sides of her brain, and was taken to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, in San Jose. Talbot Clarke initially underwent a bilateral craniotomy within the first 24 hours and remained hospitalized for five months. She ultimately underwent 12 brain surgeries. As Talbot Clarke is from Connecticut, her care was later transferred to Mount Sinai/NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York. She continues to have cognitive and memory deficits, and subsequently undergoes cognitive therapy. Talbot Clarke’s mother, acting as her daughter’s conservator, sought recovery of past and future medical costs, and past and future loss of earnings. She also sought recovery of damages for Talbot Clarke’s past and future pain and suffering.
Superior Court of Santa Clara County, Santa Clara, CA

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