COURT OF APPEAL DETERMINES THAT A PUBLIC ENTITY IS NOT LIABLE FOR AN ACCIDENT ON AN ADJACENT PROPERTY WHEN THE PUBLIC ENTITY HAS NOT ENGAGED IN AN AFFIRMATIVE ACT REGARDING THE USE OF ITS PROPERTY.
The City of Del Mar (City) 13th Street terminates at an ocean bluff, and a railroad right-of-way owned by North County Transit District (NCTD) runs along the top of the ocean bluff at the end of 13th Street. There is a guardrail at the end of 13th Street that prevents vehicles from continuing and entering NCTD’s right-of-way, although pedestrians can walk around the guardrail and access NCTD’s right-of-way and the train tracks. In 2016, Plaintiff Farid Hedayatzadeh’s (“Plaintiff”) son Javad and Javad’s friends parked their car at the end of 13th Street and walked around the guardrail, crossed the train tracks, and walked around the tracks. Javad decided to take a “selfie” in front of an oncoming train and was then struck by the train.
Plaintiff sued the City alleging a dangerous condition of public property existed based on the City’s failure to erect barriers that prevent pedestrians from accessing NCTD’s train tracks. The City moved for summary judgment against the single cause of action alleged against it, dangerous condition on public property, arguing, among other things, that the City’s property was not a dangerous condition. The trial Court granted the City’s summary judgment motion.
Plaintiff appealed this ruling, and the Court found that a dangerous condition did not exist on the City’s property and affirmed the Trial Court’s ruling on the City’s Summary Judgment Motion. The Court of Appeal agreed with the City that nothing about the City’s property entices or encourages members of the public to put themselves in danger by entering a hazardous area on an adjacent property and agreed that a failure to install a pedestrian barrier at the guardrail did not create any condition of public property that endangered members of the public who used City streets.
This ruling clearly demonstrates that unless a public entity affirmatively acts to create a physical situation that puts users of the public property in danger of a hazard or dangerous condition on an adjacent property or some other similar circumstance exists, the public entity is not liable for hazards or dangerous conditions on an adjacent property.
Should you like more information on how to defend against claims of the existence of a dangerous condition on public property, please contact Brian J. Bergman at 310-470-6110 or [email protected]