Washed-out bridge caused dangerous road condition. $396K verdict against San Bernardino County.


Driver runs off roadway into dry river bed because of washed-out bridge, says county's posted warnings were inadequate to warn of the danger.

The Case

  • Case Name: Branson et. al, v. County of San Bernardino and County of San Bernardino v. James Schultz
  • Court and Case Number: County of San Bernardino / CIVBS1200331
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, November 04, 2014
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, June 28, 2012
  • Type of Case: Dangerous Condition of Public Roads, Highways
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Pamela King
  • Plaintiffs:
    James Schultz, 44, iron worker.
    Loren Branson, 44, tile worker.
  • Defendants:
    County of San Bernardino
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $396,934.78 (Loren Branson: $255,706.48; James Schultz: $141,228.30)
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: None.
  • Economic Damages:

    Loren Branson: $121,204.94

    James Schultz: $141,228.30

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Loren Branson: $127,852.94

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 7 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day
  • Jury Polls: 12-0

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Avrek Law Firm by Melody Parman, Irvine (for James Schultz).

    Dewitt Algorri & Algorri by Patrick Nolan, Pasadena (for Loren Branson).


  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Wade & Lowe P.C. by Richard Miller, Irvine.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Rama Pathi, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Apple Valley.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Gary Painter, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Loma Linda.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):


  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Jeffrey Guyer

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    This lawsuit arises out of a single car collision that occurred on September 18, 2011 on Hinkley Road in the city of Barstow and the County of San Bernardino.

    In particular, this portion of Hinkley Road contained a washed out bridge that was to cross over the Mojave River. In 2010, the bridge was damaged due to erosion caused by the current of the Mojave River.

    On the date of the accident, James Schultz was driving Loren Branson as they explored the desert landscape and surrounding area in Mr. Schultz's truck. Mr. Schultz came out of one of the trail outlets that led to Hinkley Road. As he turned and traveled south onto Hinkley, there were no signs or barricades or other form of notice that the bridge had washed out. He was unable to stop his vehicle, and his truck plunged approximately 10 feet into a sand-bed below. Barricades and dirt berms were placed on the north side of the washed out bridge, roughly a quarter of a mile away. Schultz did not have car insurance at the time of the accident. 

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the washed-out bridge constituted a dangerous condition of roadway and that the defendant county failed to take reasonable and sufficient steps to protect the public from a dangerous condition; that plaintiff Schultz was not negligent.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That County of San Bernardino took reasonable and sufficient steps to protect the public from a dangerous condition and that Schultz was negligent. Specifically, that he should have been aware of the dangerous condition, that he traveled over private land, and that he was not wearing his seat-belt at the time of the accident.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Mr. Loren Branson sustained lower back injuries. Mr. James Schultz sustained a fractured sternum.

Additional Notes

Pre-trial offer from defendant to plaintiffs:

James Schultz: $10,000

Loren Branson: $30,000