$9.9 Million – Defective Roadway
Lister v. State of California
The Listers‚ a mother and her 9-year-old daughter‚ brought suit against the Department of Transportation (CalTrans) for dangerous road conditions on Pearblossom Highway (SR-138). Plaintiffs’ vehicle was forced off the highway‚ where it struck a large dirt berm that had been negligently left by CalTrans maintenance crews. The vehicle vaulted over a portion of the bridge approach guardrail and then plunged into the California Aqueduct. The guardrail installation did not comport with the specifications called for in the bridge plans. Plaintiffs were trapped in the submerged vehicle for over 30 minutes. A firefighter dove 17 feet to their rescue and was later awarded the Medal of Valor by the County.
Quadriplegia; brain and neurological damage.
Plaintiffs contended that CalTrans negligently constructed the bridge guardrail and failed to properly maintain the highway. The State policy of providing a clear recovery area adjacent to the roadway was violated. The defective bridge guardrail CalTrans installed was inadequate to intercept and redirect errant vehicles. The dirt berm in front of the guardrail violated State standards and served as a ramp upon which Plaintiffs’ vehicle launched over the bridge guardrail. CalTrans failed to take reasonable remedial measures despite being aware of the dangerous conditions on the highway and despite 10-years’ notice of high accident and fatality rates there.
Defendant contended the road was safe; that accidents at the location were due to driver error; that Plaintiff Lister was negligent in allowing her vehicle to get off the road; that once off road‚ her corrective reactions were negligent; and that the State had an exemplary record in highway design and safety.