A Los Angeles jury has ordered Caltrans to pay $27.5 million to a former UCLA offensive lineman who lost a part of his left leg below the knee in a 2012 motorcycle accident. According to a CBS Los Angeles news report, jurors found that the agency was negligent in failing to make a Redondo Beach intersection safer in spite of knowing about prior accidents at that location. The jury’s overall verdict in favor of Amir “Nick” Ekbatani was $35 million, but Caltrans’s portion was reduced by their finding of shared negligence by the taxi van driver who hit the plaintiff.
Caltrans has not made any changes at the intersection despite Ekbatani’s accident. However, it is expected that the agency will get to work and make the intersection safer as a result of this verdict. Plaintiffs’ attorneys said during the trial that the state of California and Caltrans knew about the dangerous conditions at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Diamond Street. Neighbors had repeatedly complained about the hazards there, but the agency did nothing to rectify the issues before this particular accident, or even after it.
Accident Was Preventable
An attorney for Caltrans maintained that the intersection is not dangerous and blamed the accident on the taxi driver who made a left turn without seeing the oncoming motorcyclist. The driver failed to yield the right of way. Ekbatani’s attorney argued during the trial that Diamond Street crosses PCH at a diagonal so severe that it hampers the driver’s view of oncoming vehicles.
He said the crash was preventable had a left-turn signal been in place. A red light at the intersection would have stopped the driver from making his left turn. Ekbatani had to undergo 13 surgeries on his left leg and still carries a backpack with supplies to help him tend to that limb. His football career is, of course, over.
Dangerous Roadways and Intersections
This case is an example of how dangerously designed roadways can cause or contribute to traffic collisions that could result in serious injuries or even fatalities. In this particular case, Caltrans had an opportunity to fix the problem. It knew about the dangerous situation at this particular intersection with visibility. It knew about prior accidents there. It knew about Ekbatani’s accident and faced a lawsuit. And yet, the agency did nothing to improve safety for those who go through that intersection every day.
As Los Angeles car accident lawyers who represent the rights of injured victims and their families, we hope that this jury verdict gives the necessary incentive for Caltrans to make the changes at that location so another person does not have to pay for this mistake with his or her life.