A lawsuit against the city of Hemet is expected to go to trial tomorrow.
The family of Nick Tusant, a Hemet high school student, is expected to have their day in court tomorrow to deliberate and hopefully settle the lawsuit they filed after Nick was struck by a truck in a crosswalk. The 2017 accident left the student severely injured. In fact, his injuries were so severe that he spent “30 days in a coma, was hospitalized for months and spent more than a year in therapy after that, learning how to speak and walk again.” As a result, his family ended up incurring more than half a million dollars in medical bills and filed their lawsuit against the city of Hemet in September 2017.
According to the attorneys representing the Tusant family, jury selection will begin on Monday and opening statements are expected in early January. The trial itself is likely to last through mid-February. What happened, exactly? Why did the family sue the city? Well, the incident itself happened on the morning of March 24, 2017 when Tusant, who was only 16-years-old at the time, “was crossing Mustang Way on his way to school.”
While crossing, a Dodge Dakota pickup driven by Joseph Gervais, then 71, struck him, according to police officers and witnesses. It’s worth noting the crosswalk where the accident happened has a history of similar accidents. In fact, it was installed back in 2012 after “six teens were struck at the location over a four-year period,” according to the suit. Today, the crosswalk includes “flashing lights on two posts under crosswalk signs and lights embedded in the ground.” However, it does not include a traffic signal or stop sign because city officials said the crosswalk is “too close to the traffic signal at Sanderson Avenue, and would likely cause traffic to back up there.”
That didn’t stop the Tusant family from alleging the city was negligent. According to the suit, the city “failed to do a proper engineering investigation or evaluation before installing the crosswalk at the location.” In failing to do so, the city also failed to “address a known, dangerous intersection, resulting in the car crash, which caused Tusant significant brain and orthopedic injuries.” The suit further states:
“The crossing location creates a substantial risk of injury to pedestrians crossing with due care because of vehicle queues, congestion, and obstructed sight lines that exist during the morning and afternoon school commutes. Children continue to get hit at the crossing location, including two separate incidents in 2018 where cars struck teenagers.”
When it originally responded to the lawsuit, the city of Hemet pushed back against the allegations and said it was not liable for the accident or Tusant’s injuries. It added that “an accident on public property is not evidence that the property was in dangerous condition at that time.”