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Caltrans Cleared Wins Defective Guardrail Case


A jury in Los Angeles has cleared Caltrans of any wrongdoing in a 2012 freeway crash in West Covina, which left a 5-year-old boy quadriplegic and seriously injured his sister. According to a City News Service report, the children, Jeremiah Dunmore and Brionna Samuels, were riding in a minivan that was pierced by a guardrail after a tire blowout. The jury deliberated for less than a day before reaching the verdict. Samuels, now 25 and Jeremiah, now 8, were the most seriously injured when the tire blew out on the minivan, which their grandmother was driving.

Catastrophic Injuries

Jeremiah also suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash and his sister suffered serious orthopedic injuries and scarring. A year after the accident, the grandmother brought a negligence lawsuit against Caltrans on behalf of her injured grandchildren alleging that an emergency shoulder curb in the front of the guardrail was too far from the rail, violating a Caltrans requirement that the curb be no more than two inches away.

The curb propelled the minivan on top of the guardrail, which broke and pierced the vehicle. Caltrans apparently put the shoulder curb in its current location 30 years ago and has not made any changes. Caltrans lawyers cast the blame on the grandmother saying she was negligent in maintaining and driving the vehicle. However, Dunmore said she had recently serviced the minivan because of her plans to attend a family reunion.

Dangerous and Defective Guardrails

Guardrails are roadway safety devices that are designed to protect vehicle occupants. Guardrails are meant to prevent vehicles from going off cliffs or embankments or out of the way of oncoming traffic. However, when guardrails are place improperly or are poorly designed, they can create hazards and cause serious injuries or even fatalities on our roadways.

In this particular case, the jury was not convinced that Caltrans, which is responsible for construction work on the state’s freeways, was negligent in its placement of the guardrail, which the plaintiff alleged caused her grandchildren’s catastrophic injuries. These cases are tragic because they do result in significant medical expenses and long-term expenses for families. In this case, there is a little boy who is going to require lifelong treatment and care because he is quadriplegic.

As California personal injury attorneys who represent catastrophically injured clients, we understand this was a tough decision for jurors. But, it is important that victims in such cases continue to seek justice so the negligent parties are held accountable and more importantly, such tragedies are prevented in the future.

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