Bicyclist falls at site of highway roadwork; paraplegic. $15.5 million. Los Angeles County.


Multiple bicyclists fall on same weekend at site of roadwork on PCH in Malibu; dangerous condition claimed.

The Case

  • Case Name: Vincent Colarossi, et al. v. Roe defendants
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / SC 109408
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, March 06, 2014
  • Date Action was Filed: Monday, July 12, 2010
  • Type of Case: Bicycle Accident, Dangerous Condition of Public Roads, Highways
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Lisa Hart Cole. (See notes below).
  • Plaintiffs:
    Vincent Colarossi, 56, owner of tree-trimming business
    Three other plaintiffs settled out; one other plaintiff was still in for the allocation arbitration.
  • Defendants:
    One public entity defendant and two private corporate defendants.
  • Type of Result: Arbitration Award

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $16,900,000 to be allocated among five plaintiffs. This sum was arrived at in mediation, not trial.
  • Net Verdict or Award: $15,512,101 for Colarossi.
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    Confidential as to individual defendants.

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 hearing days for allocation arbitration

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Callahan & Blaine, APLC by Dan Callahan, Brian McCormack, Sarah Serpa and Edward Susolik, Santa Ana.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
    Barry Ludwig, M.D., neurology, Los Angeles.
    Sharon Kawai, M.D., physiatrist, Fullerton.
    Kendall Wagner, M.D., orthopedics, Los Angeles.
  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    Jon Landerville, P.E., accident reconstruction
    John Brault, M.S., biomechanics, Mission Viejo.
    David Royer, traffic engineering.
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:
    Daniel Melcher, M.S.,accident reconstruction, Evanston, IL.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On Saturday, August 22, 2009, more than 4 bicyclists crashed at the same location on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

    On Sunday, August 23, 2009, plaintiff Colarossi crashed his bicycle on the same patch of roadway and became paralyzed from the chest down.

    The condition of the road was that it was “cold planed”.  This means that the top layer of asphalt was grinded away in order to make space to pour new asphalt.  

    On Saturday, when other cyclists fell in this same area, the Sheriff deputies attempted to contact the parties responsible for the roadwork.  Sheriff deputies said that they reached one responsible party who said he would take care of the matter on Monday.  Mr. Colarossi fell on Sunday.

    Signs were placed on Monday and the re-pouring of asphalt was finished on Tuesday.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the grinded condition left a 2 inch lip around the grinded area with a grooved and bumpy texture where the grind was.

    That plaintiff Colarossi was forced to ride his bicycle through the grind, having no other route, thus having to mount the 2 inch lip which caused him to lose control of the bicycle.  That  he was launched off his bike and went head first into the end of a guard rail, breaking his neck and causing paraplegia. 

    That the crashes were the result of unmarked and/or unfinished roadwork; plaintiff contended that the road workers should have put up more signs to warn of the grinded area, or, placed ramping around the grinded area so bicyclists did not have to mount the 2 inch lip.

    Further, that  following the bicycle accidents and despite numerous calls from the Sheriffs’ department [to the responsible defendants] on Saturday, nothing was done until Monday to repair the roadway or warn of its dangerous condition.

    That this constituted a dangerous condition of public property. That there was a failure to warn of or remedy the danger.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the plaintiffs were traveling too fast for prevailing conditions and failed to ride with reasonable caution for an open and obvious condition of the roadway.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:



Additional Notes

One defense attorney confirmed the facts and contentions of this report, as submitted by plaintiff Colarossi's counsel. Defense attorneys' names are omitted by agreement.

The gross award was reached in mediation with Robert Kaplan and Jay Horton.

The allocation hearing panel consisted of Alexander Polsky (plaintiff Colarossi), Gary Gelfand (for unnamed plaintiff) and neutral Janet Fields Rubin.