Partner Mark F. Hazelwood and Associate Christina M. Forst Win Defense Verdict in Dangerous Condition of Public Property Jury Trial

On March 5, 2019, Partner Mark Hazelwood and Associate Christina Forst obtained a defense verdict in a premises liability case  for the City of San Rafael (Mary Patricia Brown v. City of San Rafael, Marin County Superior Court Case No. CIV 1700856).

On March 23, 2016, Plaintiff parked her car in a residential neighborhood in the City of San Rafael. She was looking for a business address. Plaintiff began walking down the sidewalk when she realized that the business was on the other side of the street. She retraced her steps, walking more to the left side of the sidewalk. As Plaintiff approached an uplift in the pavement, she tripped and fell forward. Plaintiff alleged that the sidewalk constituted a dangerous condition of public property and that the City was on notice of the alleged dangerous condition. Plaintiff sustained left and right wrist fractures, requiring surgery and extended recovery time. Plaintiff claimed past and future medical care and wage loss.

Of issue in the case was Plaintiff’s discovery into other sidewalk lifts in the area and the impact that may have had on notice. Mr. Hazelwood and Ms. Forst argued that Plaintiff could not argue general notice, as Plaintiff needed to show substantially similar circumstances. The Court agreed with the City and ruled in limine that Plaintiff was not permitted to introduce evidence of other sidewalk lifts.

The evidence showed that the City had responded to the report of Plaintiff’s accident the next day and repaired the sidewalk uplift with an asphalt patch. This meant that no experts were able to measure or examine the height of the uplift. However, since that the City applied an asphalt patch, the repair was removed to allow experts to examine the uplift. Because defense counsel deposed Plaintiff on the exact location of her trip and fall, the City was able to present evidence that the uplift at the location of Plaintiff’s fall measured less than an inch.

After an eight-day jury trial, the jury returned a defense verdict after less than a day of deliberation. The jury found that the sidewalk did not constitute a dangerous condition at the time of Plaintiff’s accident. Judgment was entered in the City of San Rafael’s favor.

For further information about this case, please contact Mark Hazelwood at mhazelwood@aghwlaw.com or Christina Forst at cforst@aghwlaw.com, or by calling 415.697.2000.