Sidewalk trip and fall in Long Beach. $193K. Los Angeles County.
Trip and fall on sidewalk that City of Long Beach had previously repaired and was marked for replacement.
- Case Name: Cortez v. City of Long Beach
- Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC599723
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, November 21, 2017
- Date Action was Filed: Monday, November 02, 2015
- Type of Action: Dangerous Condition Public Property, Trip and Fall
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Peter J. Mirich
- Plaintiffs: Tina Cortez, 37, assessment coordinator at a skilled nursing center.
- Defendants: City of Long Beach
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $193,854
- Net Verdict or Award: $116,312.40
- Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 40% to plaintiff.
- Economic Damages:
Past loss of earnings: $13,889
Past medical expenses: $12,465
Future medical expenses: $17,500
- Non-Economic Damages:
Past general damages: $75,000
Future general damages: $75,000
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 6 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day.
- Jury Polls: 11-1 on liability, 12-0 on special damages, 9-3 on general damages.
- Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley by Martin J. Kanarek, Beverly Hills.
Seropian Law, A PC by Jacob H. Seropian, Pasadena.
- Attorney for the Defendant:
Long Beach City Attorney – Theodore Zinger.
- Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Kenneth Sabbag, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Pasadena.
- Defendant's Medical Expert(s):
George Macer, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Long Beach.
- Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
Brad Avrit, safety engineering, Marina del Rey.
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
On September 11, 2014, plaintiff tripped and fell on a 1-inch sidewalk displacement on a City-owned and maintained sidewalk in Long Beach. The sidewalk was previously patched in response to a complaint a year prior. This left most of the displacement cured, with only an inch or so protruding outward, the result of wear on the patch and additional tree root growth.
In June 2014, the City had been out to look at the sidewalk and respond to a request for a sidewalk cutout. While there, the City employee that reported to the site confirmed that the sidewalk was on the sidewalk replacement program, and that it would be replaced the following year. The employee’s notes from this visit included a reference to the sidewalks being “lifted.” There were no claims filed anywhere on this street, no reported incidents anywhere around the subject incident, and no evidence of prior falls on the subject displacement.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
Plaintiff contended that the sidewalk displacement amounted to a dangerous condition of public property.
- Defendant's Contentions:
Defendant disputed this contention, claiming that the displacement was not dangerous, and further contended that the sole cause of the incident was plaintiff’s inattention.
Injuries and Other Damages
- Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Plaintiff fractured her ring finger in the fall, and was treated at Kaiser. Unfortunately for her, she was initially splinted and casted, with an expectation that the bone would heal on it's own. And while it did, the fractured bone healed crooked, leaving a malunion.
With pain, stiffness, tightness, and visible deformity, plaintiff was ultimately recommended an osteotomy with hardware installation. After numerous visits complaining of her symptoms, on January 28, 2015, her Kaiser surgeon cut the bone and installed hardware. The hardware remained in plaintiff’s hand through trial. Her residual symptoms included soft-tissue pain around the metal plate, which would be remedied by removal of the hardware. Plaintiff, however, did not wish to have another surgery due to the uncertainty of the result.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $12,465
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $17,500
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $13,889