Caltrans Bans Trucks on Highway after Fatal Big Rig Accident
Caltrans’ top official has issued a temporary ban on trucks from using a portion of the Angeles Crest Highway after a La Canada Flintridge big rig accident on April 3, 2009 killed two people and injured 12 others. That accident killed 12-year-old Angelina Posca and her 58-year-old father Angel Jorge Posca, both from Palmdale. According to an Associated Press news report, Caltrans has barred vehicles with five axles from a section of Angeles Crest Highway for 90 days, after local officials said Caltrans took no action in spite of constant warnings about the dangerous roadway.
Los Angeles prosecutors have charged the truck driver, 43-year-old Marcos Costa, involved in last week’s crash with two counts of vehicular manslaughter. Each felony count carries a maximum of 12 years in state prison. The state highway in question, also known as Route 2, extends from La Canada Flintridge into the mountains where it connects with a county road, Angeles Forest Highway. Costa, like many other commuters, used Route 2 as a shortcut between the high desert and Los Angeles rather than taking the freeway, which is where he should’ve been. He ignored a truck ban on the county road and took it anyway. Commercial trucks, however, have been allowed on the Angeles Crest Highway.
City officials warned Caltrans about the dangerous situation in September, when a big rig carrying onions went out of control on the grade and crashed into the parking lot of a store, destroying seven parked cars and injuring one person. Caltrans apparently ignored the city’s continued pleas to upgrade safety measures
It is clear to me in this case that the victims of this Los Angeles County big rig accident have a case not only against the big rig driver and his employer but also Caltrans because they were the governmental agency in charge of maintaining that dangerous roadway.
Under the provisions of California Government Code section 835, a public entity is liable for injuries caused by a condition of public property when the injured person or their family proves that:
- There was a dangerous condition on the public property at the time of injury
- The dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of injury of the kind that occurred; and
- The public entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition a sufficient time before the injury to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition.
Per Government Code section 835.4, a public entity may absolve itself from liability for creating or failing to remedy a dangerous condition by showing that it would have been too costly and impractical or even unreasonable for the public entity to fix the situation. In this case, city officials had warned Caltrans for the last six months (since the last accident) to not only install warning signs, but completely ban trucks from taking that highway specifically to prevent such a tragedy. It took Caltrans 24 hours to issue that ban. It would take less than a day for them to install warning signs. In my opinion, Caltrans made a grave error by ignoring city officials’ pleas to fix the situation. Their action now comes too late for the Posca family that lost two beloved members. It comes too late for all those who were injured and are undergoing pain and suffering as a result.
The Posca family and the injured victims should consult a reputed Southern California personal injury law firm, which has the experience and successful track record of standing up for the victim’s rights and against public entities. Please remember that a personal injury claim against a governmental agency, such as Caltrans, must be properly filed within six months of the date of injury accident.