A California Superior Court reversed a lower court's decision in Castro vs. City of Thousand Oaks, in which the plaintiffs brought a suit against a city after they were hit in a crosswalk. According to the court's written opinion, a woman, her two children, and two other children in her care were waiting at a crosswalk. The woman pressed the button that was supposed to alert drivers that a pedestrian was walking. After pressing the button, the woman saw a car stop, so she proceeded to cross while pushing a baby stroller with the other children in tow. As she was crossing, she was hit by a van, one of the defendants in the lawsuit, but not the defendant at issue in this opinion.
Evidently, the driver of the van did not see the pedestrian crossing warning or the pedestrians. All of the pedestrians were hit and flew into the air and suffered serious injuries. The family brought a lawsuit, claiming that the city designed the crosswalk in a manner that made the plaintiffs believe that pressing the pedestrian crossing would allow them to safely cross. After the suit was brought against the City, it argued for summary judgment and attempted to show that they were protected from the suit by the theory of design immunity under the concept of sovereign immunity.
The higher court found the theory of design immunity is designed to prevent a jury from considering the same factors that the government agency approving the design already considered in determining the viability and safety of the project. In this case, however, the court found that the city never presented the design for safety approval, and as a result a jury should be able to determine whether there was a risk to the pedestrians.