Continued from yesterday…
Can the city of Huntington Beach be held responsible for the death and injuries suffered in last month’s two automobile accidents at the intersection of Bushard and Banning?
Under the provisions of California’s Government Code section 835, a public entity is liable for the damages of a person injured because of a condition of public property when the injured person proves that:
1. There was a dangerous condition on the public property at the time of injury;
2. The injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition;
3. The dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of injury of the kind that occurred; and
4. Either (a) The negligent or wrongful action or failure to act of an employee of the public entity created the dangerous condition, or (b) the public entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition a sufficient time before the injury to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition.
A public entity may absolve itself from liability for creating or failing to remedy a dangerous condition by showing that it would have been too costly and impractical (unreasonable) for the public entity to have done anything else but what it did or did not do. (Government Code section 835.4).
A dangerous condition cannot be the absence of traffic control or warning signs, alone. (Government Code section 830.4)
A personal injury claim against a governmental agency, such as the city of Huntington Beach, must be properly filed within six months of the date of injury. (Governmental Code section 911.2)
For a condition to be dangerous for purposes of government liability, it must be dangerous when used by motorists or others who are exercising due care, not just those who are being negligent themselves.
One kind of condition which might meet the requirements for a dangerous condition of public property would be one which creates a visual trap – an intersection or street which lacks visual clues to the driver about the environment ahead, such that a controlled intersection is ahead, or even that he is approaching an intersection at all. Walls that do not break up the scenery, walls that are close to the sidewalk giving too narrow a view of the surroundings of the road ahead, vegetation (trees, vines, tall shrubbery) and power poles can narrow the view and obscure warning signs.
I’d say that the city could be held partially at fault for these recent auto accidents.
What can Huntington Beach do to both protect the city from liability and protect the public? The least expensive and most effective solution may be to put a flashing yellow light on the west side of southbound Bushard, prior to the intersection with Banning, warning of a four way stop ahead. Putting a flashing red light at the stop sign at the northwest corner would be a big help. Moving the fence at the northwest corner of the intersection back five to ten feet in order to give westbound traffic at the intersection a better view of southbound traffic, would help greatly as well.
The city of Huntington Beach finds itself in a similar place as the city of Hanford found itself some years ago. A dangerous intersection with a history of accidents was recognized within the city. Hanford did nothing to fix the situation. A 14 year-old boy, Christopher Chan, was hit by a car at the intersection suffering severe injuries, including a debilitating brain injury.
Hopefully Huntington Beach will take action and do what is necessary to correct this dangerous situation before there are any other injury accidents. The city fathers may be thinking, “…it will cost too much money to put in a flashing light or move back the block wall at the intersection.” Consider that the city of Hanford will be paying 5 million dollars upfront cash to settle the Chan case and provide Christopher Chan life time, 24/7/365 care. I am sure the city fathers of Hanford would gladly turn back the hands of time and spend whatever it cost to make their intersection safe, if they only could.
Huntington Beach, please take the necessary action to prevent further tragedies at this intersection while there is still time.