A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury has awarded a Topanga Canyon bicyclist $9.1 million for the brain damage that he suffered in a crash after he attempted to avoid debris that fell onto the Pacific Coast Highway.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury has awarded a Topanga Canyon bicyclist $9.1 million for the brain damage that he suffered in a crash after he attempted to avoid debris that fell onto the Pacific Coast Highway. The crash happened in Pacific Palisades when he was riding from his job to his home in Topanga Canyon. Road signs near the scene directed bicyclists to ride on the shoulder of the road between traffic lanes and a cliff. As he approached a pile of sand and rocks on the shoulder of the road, he swerved into the traffic lane and was hit by the mirror of a passing truck. The impact caused him to lose control of his bicycle and crash.
The jury’s verdict was one of the largest bicycle accident awards in the history of Los Angeles County. Although it has tried to label itself a bicycle-friendly city, legal costs for Los Angeles have risen drastically with the increasing frequency of bicycle accidents; in fact, in 2017 Los Angeles spent $19 million on cyclist settlements. The injured bicyclist’s attorney reasoned that if the city promotes bicycle riding, bicyclists should have safe roadways. He remarked that the city knew that the area where the accident occurred was not safe, and it should have remedied the problem.
The crash occurred on an area of the highway known as the Tramanto slide. Officials from both the State of California and City of Los Angeles were aware of how falling sand, gravel and rocks could cause hazardous conditions along the popular bicycle route. Caltrans owns the Pacific Coast Highway. It contracted with the City of Los Angeles to clean debris from the slide on the roadway at least once a month, but at the time of trial, two Los Angeles street sweepers testified that when they got to the slide, they would swing around it rather than sweep it. The jury apportioned liability at 60 percent against the City of Los Angeles and 40 percent against Caltrans.
Caltrans and the bicyclist entered into a $999,999 settlement before the trial started. On that basis, Caltrans won’t be taking an appeal. The bicyclist’s attorneys were amenable to settling with the city before the trial, but the city persisted in its refusal to settle. The bicyclist operated a successful camera company, but as a result of his injuries, he’s now unable to work. He continues to complain of memory difficulties, and he became sensitive to light. He was also left with no sense of smell. To date, there is no indication as to whether the City of Los Angeles will take an appeal.