WHEN IS PUBLIC LAND CONSIDERED A DANGEROUS CONDITION?
WHEN IS PUBLIC LAND CONSIDERED A DANGEROUS CONDITION?
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WHEN IS PUBLIC LAND CONSIDERED A DANGEROUS CONDITION?

| Jan 26, 2020 | Firm News

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Farid Hedayatzadeh (Hedayatzadeh) appealed following the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of the City of Del Mar (the City) in his lawsuit arising out of the death of his 19-year-old son, who was struck by a train on an oceanfront bluff in Del Mar on property owned by North County Transit District (NCTD).

Specifically, Hedayatzadeh argued the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on his single cause of action alleging a dangerous condition of public property based primarily on the City’s failure to erect any barriers to prevent pedestrians from accessing NCTD’s train tracks.

On the night at issue, Javad Hedayatzadeh and his friends walked around the guardrail at the end of 13th Street, down an unimproved dirt embankment, and crossed the train tracks. The group then walked northbound on the west side of the tracks to a spot where they sat and smoked marijuana. They knew they were trespassing on NCTD property. At various points along the railroad right-of-way, NCTD has installed signs stating “No Trespassing,” “Danger” and “Railroad Property.” Javad noticed a freight train coming from the south and told his friends that he was going to use his phone to take a video “selfie” of himself next to the train. As Javad was near the train tracks taking the selfie, he was struck by the train and killed. After filing an unsuccessful claim under the Government Claims Act, Javad’s father, Hedayatzadeh, filed this lawsuit against the City, NCTD, and BNSF Railway Company, which allegedly operated the freight train.

“A dangerous condition exists when public property ‘is physically damaged, deteriorated, or defective in such a way as to foreseeably endanger those using the property itself,’ or possesses physical characteristics in its design, location, features or relationship to its surroundings that endanger users.” (Cerna v. City of Oakland (2008) 161 Cal.App.4th 1340, 1347-1348 (Cerna).)

As stated in the relevant statute, “[a] condition is not a dangerous condition within the meaning of this chapter if the trial or appellate court, viewing the evidence most favorably to the plaintiff, determines as a matter of law that the risk created by the condition was of such a minor, trivial or insignificant nature in view of the surrounding circumstances that no reasonable person would conclude that the condition created a substantial risk of injury when such property or adjacent property was used with due care in a manner in which it was reasonably foreseeable that it would be used.” (§ 830.2.)10 Thus, although “[t]he existence of a dangerous condition ordinarily is a question of fact, . . . the issue may be resolved as a matter of law if reasonable minds can come to only one conclusion.” (Zelig v. City of Los Angeles, (2002), 27 Cal.4th at 112, 1133, italics added.)

The California Court of Appeal concluded that, as a matter of law, the City’s property at the end of 13th Street did not constitute a dangerous condition of public property even though the City did not take action to prevent pedestrians from accessing the train tracks on NCTD’s adjacent right-of-way by walking around the guardrail at the end of the street.

A very unfortunate matter.

See Hedayatzadeh v. The City of Del Mar.

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Robert Rodriguez has litigated well over 100 family law cases and civil litigation matters including personal injury motor vehicle cases, dog bite and slip & fall cases, breach of contract, defamation & invasion of privacy, fraud, unfair business practice, malicious prosecution, workplace and employment matters including sexual harassment, wrongful termination, wage & hour violations, discrimination pursuant to the FEHA, Gov’t Code §§ 12940 et seq., violations of the FMLA & Pregnancy Leave, Civil Rights  discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in the State of California and California federal district courts.

* Disclaimer – Robert Rodriguez is licensed to practice only in the State of California & this analysis is applied only under State of California law.  Robert Rodriguez is also admitted to practice in the U.S. District Courts, Central, Northern & Eastern Districts of California.

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