Calif. Court Affirms Summary Judgment in Personal Injury Suit

San Bernardino Partner Art Cunningham and San Diego Appellate Partners Jeffry Miller, Ernest Slome, and Brittany Bartold Sutton recently prevailed in an appeal from the judgment entered following a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a negligence suit.

The action arose out of an injury the plaintiff suffered when a bollard, or removable metal pole placed in the sidewalk to prevent vehicular traffic from passing, allegedly fell on his foot as he was walking on his college campus. The plaintiff sued the defendant asserting that the bollard had not been properly secured by an employee of the defendant and that it had fallen on his foot when a person walking ahead of him brushed against the bollard and caused it to fall.

At his deposition, however, the plaintiff was unable to provide any evidence in support of his claim of negligence by an employee of the defendant. Furthermore, an eyewitness indicated that the plaintiff was the cause of his own misfortune. Based on the plaintiff’s inability to explain the accident and the eyewitness testimony, the defendant moved for summary judgment.

The trial court granted the motion, concluding that the plaintiff’s common law causes of action for negligence and premises liability could not be brought against a public entity defendant. As to the cause of action for dangerous condition of public property, the court determined that the defendant established there were no triable issues of material fact as to actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition.

The Court of Appeal affirmed, determining that the defendant met its burden on the negligence and premises liability causes of action by explaining that it is a public entity and is generally immune from common law tort causes of action. The plaintiff offered no evidence reflecting an employee of the defendant moved the bollard. Rather, one could speculate any number of scenarios that led to the bollard being loose. Additionally, the plaintiff did not show an employee created the dangerous condition or that the defendant had actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition.

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