May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
by Leonard Rivkin
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Quote of the Day - We're smoothing over Los Angeles one pothole at a time. - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
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City's Potholes May Be More Than A Trivial Defect

Admittedly, potholes are not a frequent occurrence here in Southern California.  We don't have the freezing and thawing and snow plows scraping the asphalt off the road like they do Back East.  I grew up in the snow, and as a kid used potholes as wintertime foxholes to hide and throw snowballs at one another.  Some of those potholes even served as tunnels from one side to another. 

But I overexaggerate slightly.

So when the Court of Appeal in the case of Strathoulis v. City of Montebello ruled that a one-inch deep pothole did not constitute a "trivial defect" that the City could use to avoid liability, I had to chuckle.  But not too hard.

The front end suspension on my car agrees heartily with this ruling, even though the one-inch deep pothole would barely hold an ammunition-sized stack of cannonball-like stack of snowballs.  Here, of course, those snowballs would have melted before I could reach the bottom of the pile.  But again I overexaggerate slightly.

All joking aside, our plaintiff Joanne Stathoulis tripped and fell in what the court politely refers to as "shallow holes" in a residential street in the City of Montebello. She filed suit against the City of Montebello alleging negligence for the dangerous condition of its street.  She fell, struck the pavement, fracturing teeth and causing lacerations to her face.

The City said it had never received a complaint about the potholes and therefore never repaired them.  It denied liability for Joanne's injuries and the trial court agreed and granted judgment for the City.  Joanne appealed, and the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court and ruled the City may be liable for Joanne's injuries. 

Just to be precise, here's the court's characterization:  "[The City Inspector] found three holes in the street, about nine feet from the curb. The southernmost gouge was 20 inches long, with a maximum width of six and one-half inches and a maximum depth of one inch. The middle gouge was 19 inches long, had a maximum width of four and one-half inches, and was half an inch deep. The northernmost hole was 24 inches long, a maximum of five inches wide, and had a maximum depth of one inch. The holes were one to four inches apart."

Potholes, plain and simple, and dangerous ones at that.

So now you know.  Finally, potholes can get cities and towns into trouble in California.  Now the repair trucks will be out in force with hot asphalt to repair those potholes. 

No more snowball fights in the streets, though.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, July 13, 2008 at 17:11 Comments (1)


Comments by sony from United States on Monday, July 14, 2008 at 16:34 - IP Logged
I recently had a incident with the city of agoura hills,ca. There was this huge pothole that I hit to avoid having a crash. The pothole was in the middle of the street. The city is denying my claim because they were unaware of the pot hole. Do you know of any lawyers I can consult if I decide to take this to court. The damages that happened to my car was extenstive.

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