Court Applies Government Immunity in Pedestrian Accident Case

Earlier this month, a California appellate court issued an opinion in a pedestrian accident case, reversing a lower court decision that had declined to apply governmental design immunity. In the case, Gonzales v. City of Atwater, the appellate court found that all three elements of governmental design immunity were met by the defendant, the city that had designed and constructed the intersection where the accident giving rise to the case had occurred.

CrosswalkGovernment Immunity in General

In all 50 states, government immunity exists in some circumstances to limit a government’s exposure to liability after accidents. The motivating thought behind government immunity is to prevent a government from getting bogged down in defending lawsuits related to the normal functions that a government must carry out on a routine basis. Government immunity does not apply in every situation in which a government employee or entity causes an injury. However, governmental immunity is a hurdle that most personal injury plaintiffs must face when naming a state, local, or federal government as a defendant. A recent case illustrates this concept.

Gonzales v. City of Atwater:  The Facts

Gonzales was killed while crossing the street in an intersection in Atwater, California. Gonzales’ loved ones filed a lawsuit against both the driver of the vehicle that struck him and the City of Atwater. After a jury trial, it was determined that the driver who struck Gonzales was not at fault for the accident, but the City of Atwater was liable. The jury returned a verdict of $3.2 million.

The City of Atwater appealed, arguing that it was entitled to a specific type of government immunity called design immunity. Essentially, the government argued that since it relied on what it argued was objectively reasonable data when it constructed the intersection, it should not be held liable for Gonzales’ accidental death.

The appellate court agreed with the City of Atwater, finding that the elements of design immunity had been met. Specifically, the court explained that the city relied on a study that it had commissioned, focusing on how to design a safe intersection. While the study may have been flawed in that there had been various fatal accidents occurring at the intersection, the city’s reliance on the data generated in the study was not unreasonable. Therefore, the court held that the lower court was wrong to conclude that the city was not entitled to immunity. As a result, the $3.2 million jury verdict was reversed.

Have You Been Injured in a Illinois Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Illinois car accident, and you believe that the dangerous design of the intersection where the crash occurred contributed to the accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation from a government entity. The skilled injury attorneys at Moll Law Group have decades of experience representing clients in personal injury cases against both private and government defendants, and we know what it takes to succeed on these claims. Call 312-462-1700 today to set up a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury lawyer.

See More Posts:

Plaintiff’s Expert’s Conclusions Protected by Work Product Doctrine, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, November 23, 2016.

Court Discusses “Foreseeability” Requirement in Chain-Reaction Truck Accident Case, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 2, 2016.

Court Reinstates Case After Attorney Admits Fault in Failing to Pay Court Fees, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 14, 2016.