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WSHB Secures Major Summary Judgment Victory for Builder Client

August 11, 2017

In a high-exposure personal injury case where Plaintiff asserted that one of the nation’s largest residential builders was liable for the defective design of an intersection in the City of Los Angeles, WSHB’s senior counsel, Katie J. Brinson, and associate, Diana E. Sfrijan, successfully obtained a dismissal on summary judgment, arguing that the builder did not control the intersection and was not responsible for its design.

Plaintiff was a pedestrian crossing the street at the subject intersection when she was struck by the driver of a vehicle traveling through the intersection.  Plaintiff claimed that the walk sign was on while she was crossing.  The driver of the vehicle claimed that the green left turn arrow was also illuminated, permitting her to make her left turn through the intersection, at the same time Plaintiff was within the crosswalk.  Plaintiff claimed the lights in the subject intersection malfunctioned.

Plaintiff also alleged that the builder, in concert and conjunction with the City of Los Angeles, negligently designed the subject intersection, and that the design of the intersection caused or contributed to Plaintiff’s injuries.  In addition to Plaintiff’s claim that the intersection’s lights malfunctioned, Plaintiff also alleged that the roadway leading up to the subject intersection was known to both the builder and the City of Los Angeles as an area where drivers regularly drove at high speeds.  Plaintiff claimed that the road leading up to this residential area was a highway; thus, drivers regularly transitioned from the highway into the area adjacent to the subject intersection at excessive speeds.  Plaintiff claimed that the builder and the City of Los Angeles knew of these conditions, but failed to heed residents’ complaints, failed to post signs advising drivers to reduce their speed, and failed to install speed bumps or flashing lights to encourage drivers to slow down.  Plaintiff claimed that the builder and the City of Los Angeles were both liable for her alleged injuries because they designed the subject intersection and controlled and/or maintained it on the date of the incident.

Plaintiff alleged she suffered a traumatic brain injury, soft tissue back and neck injuries, and multiple fractures of the leg, requiring surgery.

Attorneys Brinson and Sfrijan argued in a motion for summary judgment that even though the builder constructed the surrounding areas, including the residential street where the subject accident occurred, and despite ongoing construction in the area, the builder did not design the subject intersection, did not control the intersection, and did not maintain or control the traffic lights, signals or signage at the time of the incident.  The motion further argued that the inspection and acceptance of the subject intersection by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation was evidence that the subject intersection was, in fact, owned, controlled, and maintained by the City of Los Angeles, not the builder.  The Court found for the builder, holding that there was no evidence that the builder controlled the intersection or had any responsibility for the traffic lights, signals or signage.  WSHB’s builder client was therefore dismissed from the action.

The WSHB team of Brinson and Sfrijan was able to identify the issues that would relieve the builder of any liability early in the case, was able to successfully execute a discovery plan to find the necessary evidence to support the arguments made in summary judgment, and was able to articulate the arguments against liability to the Court.  This was a great win for the WSHB team and its client.

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