Friday, October 18, 2019
Court of Appeal:
Opinion Says Woman Who Bumped Into Pillar Has Only Herself to Blame for Injuries
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has affirmed a summary judgment in favor of the City of Los Angeles in a slip-and-fall action brought by a woman who alleged premises liability based on injuries she sustained when she bumped into a pillar at the Convention Center.
“Tort law incorporates common sense,” Justice John Shepard Wiley Jr. of Div. Eight wrote. “When one walks into a concrete pillar that is big and obvious, the fault is one’s own.”
His opinion, filed Wednesday, upholds a decision by then-Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marc R. Marmaro, now a private judge.
The action was brought on July 11, 2016, by Cynthia Dobbs, the party who was injured, and her husband, Kenneth Dobbs, who claimed loss of consortium. Marmaro held on March 16, 2018 that the city had established its entitlement to judgment under the affirmative defense of design immunity.
In his pithy opinion agreeing with Marmaro, Wiley said:
“The rule deciding this case is look where you are going. In broad daylight, Cynthia Dobbs walked into a round concrete pillar. It was 17.5 inches wide and 17.5 inches tall. A field of these unpainted pillars, also called bollards, protects the Los Angeles Convention Center from car bombs. They are the height of your average coffee table. Dobbs walked into one of them and sued the City of Los Angeles because it allegedly created a dangerous condition that caused her to trip and fall….
“About two million people visit the convention center yearly. More than 50 bollards are in front of its south hall. For the nine years before Dobbs’s accident, no one filed an injury claim.”
In the 2015 California Supreme Court decision in Hampton v. County of San Diego, cited by Wiley, a 2001 state high court opinion in Cornette v. Department of Transportation was quoted as saying:
“A public entity claiming design immunity must establish three elements: (1) a causal relationship between the plan or design and the accident; (2) discretionary approval of the plan or design prior to construction; and (3) substantial evidence supporting the reasonableness of the plan or design.”
Wiley said there was no need to discuss the first element because it was conceded at oral argument that it was met, and he noted that a manager had approved the design. As to reasonableness of the approval, he commented:
“Key evidence included how this bollard looked on the sidewalk. It was big. It was designed to stop cars. It was obvious to pedestrians who looked where they were going. There is more proof of reasonableness, but we need not recite it because reasonable minds would agree this bollard in this location was conspicuous and not a danger to pedestrians….It was reasonable to approve this plan.”
The case is Dobbs v. City of Los Angeles, 2018 S.O.S. 3190.
Mid-Wilshire attorney Raymond Ghermezian represented Cynthia and Kenneth Dobbs. Acting for the city were Sevan Gobel and Ladell Hulet Muhlestein of the downtown Los Angeles firm of Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester.
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