This week, the city of San Diego approved a $4.85 million settlement for the victim of a cycling accident allegedly caused by a poorly maintained sidewalk. This is one of the largest settlements the city has paid out in its history, exceeded only by a 2010 incident in which a man was awarded $7.6 million as compensation for paralysis due to a falling palm tree.
According to court documents, cyclist Clifford Brown was catapulted 28 feet after hitting a 7-inch bump in the sidewalk which had been caused by a tree root. The suit refers to the deformity in the sidewalk as a “launching ramp.” After Brown hit the ground, he continued to slide 10 feet and landed on his head, sustaining life-threatening injuries including torn spinal cord ligaments, broken teeth, and a possible stroke. He had been riding at around 1 pm in the afternoon to a friend's house.
The next month of Brown's life was spent at the Sharp Memorial Hospital in Kearny Mesa where he began to recover. He then transferred to a skilled nursing facility where he spent two more months. He must currently have constant home health care.
Brown's lawsuit claimed that the city had a responsibility to properly maintain the sidewalks. In addition, if the sidewalk could not be fixed, there should have been a sign or marker warning pedestrians and/or cyclists of the potential for injury. Initially, Brown named the owners of the house behind the sidewalk as defendants, but the court ruled the city, not the residents, liable for maintenance of the sidewalk.
The city initially defended itself by saying that anyone taking due care would have noticed the bump and took necessary precautions to prevent injury. The danger, in their eyes, was “minor, trivial and insignificant.”
This week, the council voted 8-1 to approve the settlement. A spokesperson for Mara Elliott, the city's attorney, said that the settlement was reasonable considering Brown's current expenses, medical bills, inability to work, and home care costs.
Councilman David Alvarez said that the incident showed the need for renewed investment in city infrastructure. He commented, “We should not be paying out million and millions of dollars — taxpayer dollars — to cure an incident like this one when we can actually be fixing our sidewalks to avoid this."
The city says that it expects a minimum of $1.85 million in reimbursement from San Diego's insurance because the settlement of $4.85 exceeds its “self-insured retention and reimbursable expenses.” A city official, Katie Keach said that the settlement should not cut into the city's budget deficits because there is a fund set aside for public liability and associated litigation.
If you have been injured as a result of poor maintenance on the part of a city, business, or homeowner, they may be liable for your injuries. For consultation and a free case evaluation, call the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal today at (303) 825-2223 or contact us online.