CASE ANALYSIS: Is Temecula Intersection Unreasonably Dangerous?

FACTS: Last September 52-year-old Theodore Angle was struck and killed by an SUV while jogging at the intersection of Via Cordoba and Redhawk Parkway in Temecula. The SUV was turning onto Redhawk from Via Cordoba when it struck Angle.

Allegations were made that the intersection was dangerous when turning left from Via Cordoba, because traffic on Redhawk blocks the line of sight for those turning right. Angle’s neighbor sent a letter to the City Council commenting on the dangerousness of the intersection, and recommending changes. Last week, Temecula’s Public and Traffic Safety Commission vote against making significant changes to the intersection.

It was stated by the city’s engineer that there have only been two accidents at the intersection since 2004, and also stated that proposed changes could actually make the intersection more dangerous.

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LIABILITY ANALYSIS: Public entitles such as the City of Temecula are protected by under a roadway design immunity at Government Code section 830.6 if the plan or design of the road if the design caused the accident, if it was approved by an employee authorized to make such decisions, and if there is “substantial evidence” that supports the reasonableness of the plan. The burden is on the city to prove the immunity applies.

The immunity may be lost if the plan or design has changed due to conditions, was aware of the change, and failed to take corrective action. The injured person must then show that the plan or design had become dangerous because of the change in conditions, that the public entity had actual or constructive notice of the change, and the public entity had time to obtain the funds to correct the problem.

If the case involves traffic signals, signs or markings, the city may be liable for failure to provide an adequate warning sign if one was necessary to warn of a danger that is not reasonably apparent.

The City of Temecula would only be liable if the above-referenced conditions were met. Since there were so few accidents involving the intersection, liability seems difficult. However, if the city had been on notice of the dangers created by the conditions leading to this unfortunate fatality, and failed to take appropriate action, there may be a viable case. The immunities would have to be overcome, which is no easy task.

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