Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, February 2, 2024


Page 3


C.A. Affirms Judgment for Cerritos in Action by Norwalk


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The City of Cerritos is immune from liability to the City of Norwalk based on diverting traffic onto its streets, the Court of Appeal for this district held yesterday.

“This is a tale of two cities,” Justice Brian M. Hoffstadt observed in the opening of his opinion for Div. Two.

Norwalk sued Cerritos for nuisance based on its ordinance, adopted in 1974, saying that “no person, corporation, or any other organization shall use or operate any commercial vehicle or any vehicle exceeding six thousand pounds on or over any street, road, or public right-of-way within the city except the following streets which are designated as truck routes,” with eight streets enumerated. They include Norwalk Boulevard and Pioneer Boulevard.

Through amendments in 2019 and 2020, Bloomfield Avenue was eliminated as a truck route.

‘Severe Adverse Effects’

On Oct. 18, 2022, Norwalk sued Cerritos, alleging that the effect of the ordinance was to “divert commercial and freight traffic away from Cerritos, while channeling it through Norwalk, resulting in a very substantial increase in heavy truck traffic through the streets of Norwalk, including residential streets, with severe adverse effects on Norwalk residents, businesses and property.”

 Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael P. Linfield sustained a demurrer without leave to amend and Norwalk appealed.

Hoffstadt pointed to Civil Code §3482 which provides immunity for acts “done or maintained under the express authority of a statute” and to Vehicle Code sections 35701 and 21101 which authorize cities to regulate use of its streets by commercial or heavy vehicles. He wrote:

“Is Cerritos immune from liability for the public nuisance of diverting traffic into Norwalk? Yes, because the immunity conferred by Civil Code section 3482 applies not only to the specific act expressly authorized by statute (namely, enacting an ordinance designating routes for commercial vehicles and those exceeding weight limits), but also to the inexorable and inescapable consequences that necessarily flow from that act (namely, that drivers unable to use those routes will take different routes, thereby causing adverse effects of heavier traffic on those other routes). Where, as here, the authorized act and its consequence are flip sides of the same coin, immunity applies to both, and a public nuisance claim fails as a matter of law.”

Complete Defense

He said that §3482 “confers a statutory immunity that is a complete defense to a nuisance claim” where it applies. Hoffstadt elaborated:

“Where an alleged nuisance does not inexorably and inescapably flow from the statutorily authorized act—typically because the alleged tortfeasor has some leeway in how to undertake the authorized act—then section 3482’s immunity does not apply.”

The jurist then declared:

“Conversely, where an alleged nuisance inexorably and inescapably flows from the statutorily authorized act, then section 3482 immunity does apply.”

He wrote:

“So we ask: Are the deleterious effects of heavier traffic in Norwalk the flip side of the same coin as the enactment of the ordinance in Cerritos?

“We hold that they are. The closure of one artery to through traffic necessarily diverts that traffic to a different artery. When one channel of a river is blocked, the water necessarily finds a different channel. Life finds a way; so does traffic. What is more, the deleterious effects that Norwalk alleges as a further aspect of the public nuisance are the “unavoidable byproducts” of that diverted traffic.”

The case is City of Norwalk v. City of Cerritos, 2024 S.O.S. 468.


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