Personal Injury
Auto v. Pedestrian; Dangerous Condition of Public Property
Los Angeles Superior Court
Auto v. Pedestrian; Dangerous Condition of Public Property

Edward B. Moreton Jr.
James P. Carr (Yuhl Carr LLP)
Tyler J. Barnett (Yuhl Carr LLP)
Steven M. McGuire (Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney)
Rory D. Leos (MacDonald & Cody LLP)

Jeffrey A. Schaeffer Ph.D. (neuropsychology)
Howard R. Krauss (neuro ophthalmology)
Kenneth R. Sabbag M.D. (orthopedic hand surgery)
Barbara Greenfield B.S.N. (life care planning)
Marisa C. Chang M.D. (neurology)
Gary Gsell (infrastructure policies and procedures, municipality and industrial standards)
Edward J. Ruzak P.E. (traffic engineering)

FACTS: On June 17, 2017, at 8 p.m., plaintiff Robert Kulig, 24, was struck while crossing Coldwater Canyon Boulevard with his dog on a leash in a marked crosswalk on the south side of Coldwater's "T" intersection with Erwin Street. He was struck by a northbound motorist, defendant Manana Chiaberi, who failed to see him. The registered owner of that vehicle was Emil Chiaberi and they had limits of only $25,000 on their auto policy. A lawsuit was filed against the Chiaberis for negligence and against the City of Los Angeles for dangerous condition of public property.

PLAINTIFF'S CONTENTIONS: Plaintiff contended that the City should have mitigated the hazardous condition(s) at this crosswalk well before plaintiff was struck and very nearly killed. The City claimed that the mandatory provisions of the Federal ADA required it to install access ramps (commonly referred to as wheelchair ramps) at this intersection before it could install the recommended RRFB. Plaintiff contended that the access ramps should have been installed decades ago. After plaintiff's accident, the City actually installed pedestrianactivated RRFBs at this location without constructing the access ramps. Plaintiff contended this subsequent remedial measure would be admissible at trial to discredit and refute the City's contention that the recommended safety improvements simply could not be installed until the ramps were brought up to date.

DEFENDANT'S CONTENTIONS: The City contended that it was immune from liability under Govt. Code Section 830.4 which expressly states that a condition is not dangerous if the purported property deficiency is the absence of traffic controls, signs or markings. In addition, the City contended that plaintiff could not raise a triable issue of material fact that the intersection was in a dangerous condition in light of the undisputed facts about the intersection's condition, and the minimal incidence of prior pedestrian vehicle collisions. At the intersection, for the period Jan. 1, 2007 through June 17, 2017, the date of the accident, the Intersection Collision History showed there were only three pedestrian / vehicle collisions, including the one involving plaintiff. Based on data from LADOT Traffic Volume Study of Aug. 27, 2013 approximately 3,572,985 vehicles passed through the Intersection in a northbound direction. Thus, the frequency of a collision like the one involving plaintiff is 0.05 collisions or 1,000,000
vehicles, or one similar accident for every 18.6 million vehicles. There were no sight line obstructions. The conditions were dry, the weather was clear, and the collision happened during daylight. The striping on the street was new and conspicuous. The City went on to argue that the decision to authorize and install the RRFB at the Intersection was not a product of a conclusion that the Intersection was in a dangerous condition, or based on the collision history of the Intersection. Improved safety in public property is not, as a matter of law, evidence that the property was in a dangerous condition under Govt. Code Sections 835 and 830(a). Moreover, even if plaintiff can establish that a dangerous condition of public property existed, a public entity is not liable for damage caused by a dangerous condition if the act or omission that created the condition was reasonable, or if the action the entity took or failed to take to protect against the risk was reasonable. Govt. Code Section 835.4.

MEDICAL COSTS: Meds: $500,000 (post Howell)

INJURIES: Plaintiff's injuries consisted of a severe traumatic brain injury (admitting GCS of 1/2/1); bilateral pulmonary contusions; respiratory failure following trauma; ventilator associated MRSA pneumonia (extubated on hospital day 11); splenic laceration; left hand fracture/dislocation; loss of left distal fourth finger; contractures of third through fifth digits; fracture of the left anterior second through fifth ribs and left posterior third and fourth ribs; and fracture of lower end of left humerus. Future medical care consisted of formal neuropsychological testing; extensive outpatient cognitive therapy; individual psychotherapy and family counseling; adaptive visual aids to compensate for the patient's peripheral vision loss; appropriate school accommodations to accommodate for patient's traumatic brain injury and visual loss; appropriate adaptive aids to compensate for patient's dominant hand weakness, contractures and loss of dexterity. Plaintiff further alleged that the patient may be at a higher risk of developing neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's disease in the future due to the severity of his traumatic brain injury. The life care plan before adjusting to present value amounted to $1.5 million - $6 million. Plaintiff was not employed at the time of the incident and was not claiming any past wage loss, however, he was claiming loss of income in the future due to the injuries he suffered from the incident. The amount of that loss was not calculated at the time the case settled.

RESULT: The case settled after mediation, but before the hearing on the City of Los Angeles' motion for summary judgment, for $2 million from the City and $25,000 (policy limits) from the Chiaberi defendants. The total settlement came to $2,025,000.