Jury Delivers $1.3 million Verdict and Strong Safety Message in Fatal City of Redlands Crash

December 10, 2015 – In a case where a citizen stood up to city hall in defense of public safety, the jury spoke, the city listened, and the community now has a safer roadway. In Sheldon Alechman v. City of Redlands, RCRSD partner William Shapiro represented a widower whose wife was killed in a 2011 crash when her Mercedes SUV veered off the road and flipped after hitting a cement block located in a City of Redlands right-of-way. The city denied responsibility, refused to correct the safety issue, and Sheldon Alechman took it to trial.

During the trial, which began on October 6, 2015, the City of Redlands said the cement structure – or weir – located on San Timoteo Canyon Road was not located on public property and that it didn’t present an unsafe road condition. A city’s expert, however, admitted in a deposition that the weir could be a danger. Shapiro argued that since the cement structure was on the city’s right-of-way sitting just 15 inches from the side of the road, the city had an obligation to remove it to keep the roadway safe. The jury agreed.

After a three-day deliberation, the 12-member jury awarded $2.1 million in damages after finding the City of Redlands to be responsible for the unsafe road conditions that caused Sandra Alechman’s death. The award was reduced to $1.38 because the jury found the Sandra Alechman to be 35 percent responsible.

“This case is not about the money,” said Shapiro. “It’s about how the jury system works. It’s about how a city says there is nothing dangerous, nothing wrong for four years, until a citizen who lost his wife on a dangerous roadway fought city hall and won.”

Along with the award, the jury told the city they were wrong and encouraged it to remove the structure before more people were killed. After the jury spoke, the city contacted the owner of the property where the weir was located and asked that the dangerous structure involved in the crash be removed. On November 16, the weir was removed.

“This is a tragedy that never should have happened and I hope other cities see this as a wake-up call to be proactive about keeping their roadways safe,” said Shapiro. “It’s also a prime example of how the jury can be the conscience of the community and create change.” He added, “During the trial, I let the jury know that with their verdict they would be making the City of Redlands a safer place, and they did.”

Media:

City Hit With $1.3 Million Verdict Over Deadly Single-Car Rollover Accident, CVN

Redlands to Pay $1.3 Million in Damages in Fatal Crash, Redlands Daily Facts

Structure Involved in 2011 Fatal Crash on San Timoteo Canyon Road Removed, Redlands Daily Facts

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