State to Pay $160,213.80 for Refusing Settlement

On December 5, 2014 the Humboldt Superior Court ordered CalTrans and State Parks to pay $160,213.80 to a citizen who it forced to go to trial to prove that her husband died as a result of a dangerous intersection.

Janssen Malloy LLP filed a case against CalTrans and State Parks for maintaining a dangerous intersection that has resulted in multiple crashes and at least one death. Citizens and park employees had complained about the dangerous intersection for many years and park employees told CalTrans that if something was not done about the intersection somebody would die. Within a month of that warning, somebody tragically died because the driver exiting Grizzly Creek State Park onto Highway 36 had insufficient sight of oncoming traffic.

The jury found that it was a dangerous condition of public property after a two month trial. The jury verdict exceeded the amount of money that plaintiff offered the State to settle the case. California encourages settlements through Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) Section 998. Under CCP 998 a party who does not accept a reasonable settlement offer is subject to having to pay the opposing party’s expert costs after the trial if the jury verdict exceeds the offer. In this case, the plaintiff made a very reasonable offer to settle the case and CalTrans refused to offer a dime despite overwhelming evidence that it failed to correct a dangerous condition after receiving numerous complaints. CalTrans could have fixed the problem by simply putting up signs or signals. CalTrans should have tried to settle the case for a reasonable amount instead of forcing an unnecessary trial.

Janssen Malloy LLP understands that governmental entities with deep pockets will try to outspend citizens during litigation. Therefore, Janssen Malloy LLP is prepared to pay the costs necessary to take every case through trial. It is encouraging to see that there is a price to be paid by governmental entities who take unreasonable positions and force meritorious cases to go to trial.