Dangerous condition of City of Long Beach bike path. Defense. Los Angeles County.


Plaintiff on bike path through area congested with disembarking boat passengers collides with boat passenger or luggage.

The Case

  • Case Name: Nicholas Espinosa v. City of Long Beach et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC593929
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, July 27, 2018
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, December 10, 2015
  • Type of Case: Bicycle Accident, Dangerous Condition Public Property, Premises Liability
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Gloria White-Brown
  • Plaintiffs:
    Nicholas Espinosa
  • Defendants:
    City of Long Beach
    Catalina Channel Express
    AC Catalina Landing LLC, erroneously sued as the Abbey Company
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defense verdict.
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    The City of Long Beach got out on a demurrer based on statutory immunity (trail immunity).

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 8 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 3 hours.
  • Jury Polls: 10-2

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Stolpman Law Group by Thomas Stolpman, Long Beach.

    Law Offices of Albert S. Israel by Albert Israel, Long Beach.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Peacock Piper Tong + Voss LLP by Albert E. Peacock III, Long Beach. (For Catalina Channel Express and AC Catalina Landing LLC.)

    Keesal, Young & Logan by Kristy Sambor, Long Beach. (For Catalina Channel Express and AC Catalina Landing LLC.)

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Robert Freundlich, M.D., neurology, Encinitas.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Vernon Williams, M.D., neurology, Los Angeles.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Brad Avrit, PE, safety engineering, Marina del Rey.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Eric Deyerl, PE, accident reconstruction, Culver City .

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff was riding his bicycle on a City of Long Beach bike path which runs through a building complex called the Catalina Landing. Catalina Express operates a ferry service to and from Catalina Island out of Catalina Landing. During the loading and unloading of the ferries, passengers must cross the City's bike path to get to the ferries. On the date of the accident, plaintiff struck baggage and/or a passenger as he rode through Catalina Landing and was thrown off of his bicycle. Plaintiff landed on his head and was knocked unconscious.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff claimed that the City's bike path created a dangerous condition on the land because it ran through the middle of the ferry boat loading and unloading area. In addition, plaintiff claimed that Catalina Landing as the land owner and Catalina Express as its tenant were negligent in failing to adequately control the passengers and other pedestrians in the area and keep them off of the bike path.

    At his deposition, plaintiff drew on photographs of the area to locate where the collision took place; he later realized that the actual location was about 60 feet from where he had indicated. The defense accused him of making this up to make his case stronger.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    The City of Long Beach claimed that it had statutory immunity under Government Code 831.4 (trail immunity) and its demurrer was sustained without leave to amend. Defendants Catalina Landing and Catalina Express claimed that they had exercised reasonable care with respect to the bike path. They repeatedly complained to the City of Long Beach about the bike path and the hazard it posed to passengers and pedestrians, met with the City repeatedly and convinced the City to undertake a traffic engineering study 10 months before the accident. This study led the City to add striping though Catalina Landing including cross walks across the bike path in the passenger loading zone and to install signs warning bicycles to yield the right of way to pedestrians. Even after that, the defendants continued to complain to the City, asking it to do more, including to reroute the bike path altogether.

    In addition, defendant Catalina Express assigned three of its employees to patrol the loading area to try to keep passengers and pedestrians off of the bike path. Defendants also claimed that plaintiff was speeding through the area at the time of his accident and did not yield the right of way. The posted speed limit in the area was 5 mph and defendants claimed that the plaintiff was riding 10 mph at a minimum and more likely between 18 and 20+ mph based upon their accident reconstruction.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff suffered a concussion and subdural hematoma as a result of his fall. He was taken to the hospital and remained there for three days.

    Plaintiff continued to suffer from headaches, memory loss, dizziness sleeping problems and a short temper. Plaintiff's medical expert claimed that plaintiff suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the accident which were causing his memory loss and mood problems. Defendants disputed that plaintiff suffered any permanent brain injury and claimed that he had fully recovered from his concussion within weeks and, at most, months after the accident with no residuals.

    Defendants' medical expert claimed that plaintiff's ongoing symptoms were the result of pre-accident medical conditions unrelated to the accident including diabetes, high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation. Defendants' medical expert also testified that the injury looked worse than it was because plaintiff was on blood thinners.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $50,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $12,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $0

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: Lowest demand: $250,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $50,000