Los Angeles Team Secures Defense Verdict on Behalf of San Diego NCTD in Wrongful Death Case

Los Angeles, Calif. (October 27, 2022) - Los Angeles Partners Anthony Sonnett and Alan Arshansky recently obtained a significant victory on behalf of the San Diego North County Transit District (NCTD) when a jury returned a defense verdict in a wrongful death case stemming from a train accident. In this matter, a 19-year-old man sustained a fatal head injury when he was struck by a train along the Del Mar Bluffs in north San Diego County. The area where the accident occurred is commonly used for access to the beach, as a viewing point for the ocean, and for other recreational activities. 

Following his death, the man’s father filed suit, alleging that the railroad’s right of way constituted a dangerous condition because of pervasive trespassing due to the absence of any fencing, insufficient signage, and inadequate enforcement of trespassing violations. The plaintiff argued that these conditions effectively invited trespassers onto the Bluffs. In support of his position, he presented the jury with statistics showing large numbers of trespassers, as well as trespasser deaths, injuries, and “near misses” at the location. On behalf of NCTD, Lewis Brisbois conceded that while trespassing was common on the Bluffs, the area did not constitute a dangerous condition because it could be used safely as long as trespassers acted with reasonable care to avoid injury.

The plaintiff’s final demand at mediation was in the eight-figure range, and the case ultimately proceeded to a two-week trial. During closing, the plaintiff asked the jury for damages in an amount that was almost four times the amount he demanded at mediation. After deliberating for less than 30 minutes, the jury returned an 11-1 defense verdict.

Mr. Sonnett is chair of Lewis Brisbois’ Railroad Practice and a vice-chair of its Products Liability and Lithium-Ion Battery Practices. He concentrates his practice in products liability, general liability, and FELA/Railroad Litigation. An aggressive litigator and trial lawyer, he has had multiple cases published in both the California Supreme Court and the California Court of Appeals.

Mr. Arshansky is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ Products Liability and General Liability Practices. He focuses his practice on defending clients in personal injury, premises liability, and transportation, railroad, and maritime matters, including cases brought pursuant to FELA.

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