Last week, a jury found Caltrans negligent in failing to make a dangerous Redondo Beach intersection safer despite having knowledge of previous collisions. Caltrans was ordered to pay $27.5 million to Amir "Nick" Ekbatani, a former UCLA football player who lost the bottom part of his left leg after a motorcycle crash at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Diamond Street. Ekbatani's attorney argued at trial that the state and Caltrans were aware of resident complaints made years earlier about this particular intersection but failed to address the problem.
Intersections usually have 90-degree angles; but the PCH and Diamond Street intersection located across the street from Redondo Union High School form a 60-degree angle. Prior to Ekbatani's accident, two engineers visited the intersection, and upon finding it to have a line-of-sight problem recommended changes to Caltrans. Ekbatani's attorney suggests adding two double-double yellow lines to emphasize lane boundaries, as well as a left-turn signal.
Ekbatani was riding his motorcycle on July 14th, 2012, heading north on PCH when a taxi driver driving southward failed to yield the right-of-way when turning left onto Diamond Street. Caltrans argued that the agency was not responsible for Ekbatani's injuries as they inherited the intersection from the city of Redondo Beach and therefore did not design it, and that the taxi driver's negligence was the cause of the accident. The jury found shared negligence by the taxi driver, but still held Caltrans liable.
Ekbatani hopes that the verdict will encourage Caltrans to make changes at this intersection to increase safety and prevent future accidents. Just last year, a jury awarded $23.7 million to the family of a motorcyclist killed at a blind corner in San Pedro, finding the city of Los Angeles 95% liable for the man's death. Large awards such as these may provide the push needed to encourage cities and agencies such as Caltrans to make necessary improvements to avoid accidents and large verdicts in the future.
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