Government May Be Liable Due to Dangerous Property Condition in Wrongful Death

- David Boehrer

A recent court decision ruled that the government or a government entity may be held liable for injury caused by a dangerous condition on public property even if it did not cause the third party conduct that precipitated the accident.

Wrongful Death Case

The case stemmed from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by parents of three decedents who were killed in a car accident in the City of Los Angeles, California. The accident occurred when a third party vehicle hit the decedents’ car. The impact of the collision sent the decedents’ car spinning and out of control onto the center median, hitting some magnolia trees which were planted in the median approximately a few feet from the roadway.

The decedents’ parents sued the City of Los Angeles along with other defendants, citing a California statute which provides that a public entity may be liable for injury caused by a dangerous condition of its property if the public entity could reasonably foresee the danger for it to take corrective or preventive measures against the risk.

In its cause of action against the city, the plaintiffs asserted that the magnolia trees planted in the center median were near the roadway, creating a serious risk to motorists who could lose control of their vehicles. They alleged that this dangerous condition proximately caused the decedents’ fatal injuries.

Trial Court’s Ruling

The trial court decided in favor of the City of Los Angeles, ruling that the magnolia trees which were planted in the median did not constitute a dangerous condition of public property. The court further stated that the third-party driver’s negligence caused the accident and that the plaintiffs failed to show that the City caused the third-party driver’s conduct. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision for the same reasons.

Supreme Court’s Ruling

When the case reached the California Supreme Court, the high court addressed the issue whether the California tort statute relied upon by the plaintiffs required proof that the dangerous condition caused not only the decedents’ fatal injuries but also the third party conduct that led to the accident.

The court ruled that such proof was not necessary to hold the city government liable for the dangerous condition that was involved in the fatal accident. The court remanded the case to the appellate court for it to determine whether there was enough evidence to show that the roadway configuration was a dangerous condition and if so, whether the roadway configuration proximately caused the fatal injuries of the decedents.

If you have lost a loved one in an accident caused by another person’s negligence or carelessness, it’s important to talk to an attorney about your situation. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the negligent parties may be held legally responsible for the wrongful death of your loved one.

In Henderson, Nevada, the David Boehrer Law Firm is prepared to fight for you and help you achieve the best results in your case. We invite you to call any of our personal injury attorneys at (702) 750-0750 for a free case evaluation.