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In April 2016, Sacramento & Elk Grove-based John M. O'Brien & Associates settled a cyclist versus automobile case. Our client, a 35-year-old female tri-athlete was on a training ride on the American River bike trail in Sacramento. As she approached the trail's intersection with Del Paso Blvd., she slowed but did not stop, thinking that any approaching traffic on Del Paso would stop. Every other crossing on the American River bike trail, except this one, requires vehicular traffic to stop. This was the first time the client had been to this intersection on the trail. As she entered the crossing, a car struck her at 35 mph, causing a severe injury to her left lower leg. She had two reconstructive surgeries on the leg.
We resolved the case against the vehicle driver for his policy limit. We then sued the City and County of Sacramento alleging that the intersection is dangerous because it is treated differently than every other crossing on the bike trail. The case was difficult from a liability perspective because our client admitted that she did not stop for a stop sign on the bike trail and there was no stop sign for vehicular traffic. However, we argued that this is the only place on the bike trail’s numerous traffic crossings where vehicular traffic does not have a stop sign and cyclists do. In fact, the American River Bike trail is 32 miles long and has 12 crossings open to public vehicle traffic. Del Paso Blvd. is the only place where vehicular traffic does not stop, and in fact, at every other location on the trail stop signs for cyclists have been removed. In addition, the signpost warning motorists of the trail crossing was missing when the accident occurred. The view is also obstructed by foliage and other topography, making the duty to stop Del Paso traffic even more important. In addition to arguing our client’s comparative fault, both the City and County argued that trail immunity barred their liability. The case settled against the City and County at mediation for a confidential sum.