$17,988,000: Ten Foot Tall Hedges Block Driver’s Line Of Sight Leading To Collision With Young Boy

CASE DESCRIPTION: A 12 year old boy was riding his bike along a street. There was a service road that intersected the street he was traveling on. Unfortunately there were ten-foot tall hedges lining the service street, blocking the line of sight of both streets from one another. As the young boy entered the service road he collided with a truck traveling up the service road. Plaintiff brought suit against the driver and the City of Buena Park for liability of a dangerous condition of public property.

RESULT: $17,988,771.90 settlement (expected lifetime payout)

On September 16, 1999, Matthew was riding his bicycle westbound across Valley View, City of Buena Park, within a crosswalk, and in accord with a green pedestrian signal in his direction. Adjacent to this stretch of Valley View is a service road that runs parallel to Valley View in a north-south direction. On the day of this incident, the hedges that ran between Valley View and the service road were approximately ten (10) feet in height. These hedges cut off the line of sight between pedestrians using the crosswalk and cars traveling on the service road. As Matthew proceeded across Valley View onto the service road, a vehicle was proceeding northbound on the service street. This vehicle and Matthew collided when Matthew entered onto the service road. The hedges also blocked the driver’s view.

Plaintiff settled with the driver of the vehicle for that person’s $100,000 policy limits prior to litigation.

The action against Buena Park was premised upon Plaintiff’s contention that the blocked line of sight created by the tall hedges constituted a dangerous condition of public property. The City contended that there was no dangerous condition, as proven by the lack of similar accident in years preceding this incident. The City further contended that the intersection did not present a danger to a person acting reasonably since oncoming traffic could be observed if one stops at the curb edge before proceeding into the street. The City contended that the sole cause of the incident was the Plaintiff’s failure to look for oncoming traffic prior to entering the roadway from the sidewalk. Ultimately, the City brought a motion for summary judgment contending that the intersection did not present a dangerous condition of public property as a matter of law. Plaintiff successfully opposed that motion and the matter settled shortly thereafter.

TYPE OF CASE: Government Entity Liability; Bicycle v. Auto; Personal Injury

INJURIES: Plaintiff sustained severe injuries which include multiple brain injuries including diffuse axonal injury (DAI), cerebellar hemorrhage, and intracerberal shearing of the brain; a left clavicle fracture; right pulmonary laceration; a splenic hematoma; liver laceration and free fluid in the pelvis, broken collar bone and broken ribs at the time of the accident. He now suffers from slowed speech, slowed motions, and slow walking ability. He also has some cognitive difficulties.

The City contended that Plaintiff was a special education student prior to the incident, and his tested abilities did not decline measurably following this incident. The City contended that Plaintiff’s earning capacity was not markedly reduced, and that Plaintiff would not require significant future medical care.

Plaintiff claimed past medical expenses of $440,000 lost future earnings of $ 1,600,000 and substantial future costs for assisted living services. Defendant disputed all except for the past incurred expenses.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: On 9/16/99 on Valley View, in the City of Buena Park, California.

PLAINTIFF’S AGE: 12 at time of incident.


Darren O. Aitken & Wylie A. Aitken
For Plaintiff – Matthew T., a Minor, by and through his Guardian ad Litem, Joe T.

Also for Plaintiff:

Vincent J. Russo Esq.

Peter M. Callahan & Scott Blackstone
For Defendant – City of Buena Park