Our client was riding a bicycle down a frequently-ridden section of Mountain Boulevard in Oakland, California that for years had been badly degraded and full of dangerous potholes. She hit one of the potholes and fell forward to the ground, fracturing many of the bones in her face, and requiring seven reconstructive surgeries. The City of Oakland had received over 25 complaints about the dangerous roadway, but had done nothing to fix it. After settling the case, Oakland undertook major changes in its roadway repair program, particularly on roadways well-traveled by bicycles. Please see more details and the extensive press coverage of the settlement
Our client was riding home along San Pablo Avenue in Oakland when she was hit by a left-turning A.C. Transit bus, causing extensive facial and bodily injuries. The driver took the turn at almost 20 miles an hour, even though A.C. Transit’s own training manual required its drivers to take left turns at no more than five miles per hour. The driver had been written up for taking another left turn too fast just six weeks earlier. A.C. Transit instituted new safety training for its drivers after the settlement was paid. Please see a more detailed discussion of this important case and the KPIX News and other press coverage.
Our client was a successful corporate CFO who was training for the Death Ride by riding on Highway 4 near Markleeville, CA in the High Sierras. He was riding a smooth, newly re-surfaced stretch of the highway when he unexpectedly hit a hole in the road intentionally placed by Caltrans to anchor a gate they used to close Ebbett’s Pass in the winter. He fell hard, fracturing 14 ribs, and suffering significant internal bleeding and a ruptured spleen. Caltrans filed a motion for summary judgment in an attempt to have the case dismissed before reaching a jury. Caltrans based their motion on the primary assumption of the risk doctrine, essentially arguing that our client assumed the risk of hitting a hole in the road and falling when he chose to go on a long, challenging ride on thin-tired road bicycle in mountains so Caltrans should not be held responsible.
After taking 17 depositions and investing over $50,000 in expert consultation and declarations, the Zinn Law Firm defeated the motion. The Zinn firm defeated the motion by successfully arguing that, because Caltrans has a legal obligation to provide safe, well-maintained roadways to bicyclists, encountering dangerous holes in the roadway was not a risk road bicyclists assume when they ride. Further, the Court agreed with plaintiff that by creating a hole in the road to anchor their winter Gate, Caltrans added to the inherent risk already present in road bicycling, and denied Caltrans’ motion. The case settled for $1,000,000 shortly thereafter. As a result of this case, the Zinn firm has become a leading firm in the state in defeating primary assumption of the risk defenses asserted by public entities when bicyclists are injured when they hit dangerous defects in the roadway surface.
Our client was riding his bicycle northbound on the west sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge. At the north anchorage housing, the sidewalk widens to over 25 feet. There is a single light pole that sits less than 9 feet from the guardrail. It creates confusion as cyclists often do not know which side of the pole to ride on. Our review of over 300,000 pages of documents produced by the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District (the District) showed that over 30% of the bicycle-related accidents on the 1.7 mile long west sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge occurred within 150 feet either side of this single light post. Our client ran head on into another bicyclist. He was knocked off his bike, resulting in a cervical spinal fracture rendering him paralyzed from the neck down and causing him to suffer a significant traumatic brain injury.
At the time the District’s Chief Engineer was Dennis Mulligan, who is now the District’s General Manager. Mr. Mulligan testified that although it would have cost less than $25,000 to move the light pole, he thought it was more important to preserve the esthetic advantage of having all the polls line up visually than to move the pole that was proximate to over 30% of the bike accidents occurring on the bridge. The dangerous light pole is still there to this day, unpadded, and unmarked, and continues to impose unreasonable danger and risk for thousands of bicyclists who cross the bridge every week. The case settled with the District and the other cyclists for a confidential amount. During the litigation, the District threatened to closes the bridge to cyclists forever rather than simply move the pole. Thankfully and wisely, it did not follow through with that stated plan.
The Zinn Law Firm recently settled a case for $950,000 for a bicyclist who was injured when he was struck by a car coming from the opposite direction. The bicyclist had attempted to ride through a notoriously dangerous intersection in Marin County well used by road bicyclists. The funds were paid by the driver and the public entity that owned the land. Interestingly, the public entity had commissioned a traffic engineering study over 13 years earlier that recommended a number of safety improvements, including converting the four way intersection to a traffic circle, or roundabout, that the engineering firm that conducted the study stated would essentially have eliminated the risk for head on collisions. Despite this, the public entity took no action and allowed the intersection to remain almost unchanged despite the rampant amount of confusion that exists as to right of way and sightlines for roadway users to this day. The settlement was widely covered in the local media, both on its own merits and because, in this firm’s strongly held opinion, the settling public entity failed to comply with the public meeting requirements of the Brown Act (also known as California’s Sunshine Act) that requires that settlements between public entities and members of the public be disclosed on the agenda of public meetings of the entity’s Board of Supervisors.
The Zinn Law Firm represented a San Francisco man and avid cyclist in his 50s who suffered a tibial plateau fracture when he was riding his bicycle on 15th Street in the Mission and was hit by the right rear door of a taxi when a passenger was let out in the middle of the block. In allowing the passenger to exit in the middle of the traffic lane, the taxi driver violated San Francisco Police Code Section 1102 LOADING REGULATED, which provides: “It shall be unlawful for any person operating a motor vehicle for hire licensed pursuant to this Article to permit that vehicle to remain standing upon the street for the purpose of loading or unloading passengers unless the vehicle is within two feet from the curb.” According to a Stanford orthopedist retained by our firm, our client’s tibial plateau fracture would more likely than not require our client to undergo a hip replacement at some point in his lifetime.
The Zinn Law Firm Settled a case for $595,000 against Caltrain and the City and County of San Francisco when the City decided in 2010 to paint a bike lane parallel to and six inches away from, a set of tracks leading out of the San Francisco Caltrain station that had once been used regularly, but by the time of the accident was almost completely out of use. The tracks were also in a degraded condition, allowing for a wider than normal space between the roadway surface and the metal track that caught our client’s bike tire as he attempted to merge to the right and turn right on 7th Street. We argued that placing a bike lane next to tracks in this manner and encouraging bicyclists to merge laterally across the tracks to take a right turn, as the bike lane here did, constituted a dangerous condition of public property. The case was removed to federal court, where The Zinn Law Firm successfully opposed a motion for summary judgment made by the City on the grounds of design immunity. The case settled shortly thereafter. Our client suffered a fractured shoulder and injured back in the fall.
Our client was an experienced road cyclist heading out to do a training ride in Marin. He decided to try the new bike path that had just been opened in the Presidio as part of the Doyle Drive project adjacent to Lincoln Blvd. Signage directed bicyclists riding west on Lincoln to merge to their right onto the sidewalk and to take the new bike path. Unfortunately, the curb cutout provided had a lip of over 1 ½ inches, even though section 1000-22 of Caltrans Highway Design Manual clearly requires that any road to curb transition used as part of any bicycle facility have a flush transition. Our client fell off his bike when his tires knocked sideways into the curb lip, and fractured his hip upon falling. We retained the most well regarded hip surgeon in the Bay Area to examine our client. He concluded our client would need two future hip surgeries to regain maximum range of motion and to reduce his chronic hip pain. The case settled for $525,000 in mediation shortly thereafter.