Sidewalk lawsuits could cost San Diego taxpayers millions of dollars

Crumbling infrastructure blamed for injuries

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Lawsuits against the city of San Diego are starting to pile up, saying the city is liable for injuries and, in some cases, deaths because of crumbling sidewalks.

"I would say, in the next 5 or 10 years, the city is easily looking at paying over $100 million," said Ross Jurewitz, managing partner at Jurewitz Law Group, who specializes in personal injury lawsuits.

He said his company gets about 5 to 10 calls each week alleging the city is responsible for an injury.

"What the plaintiff has to prove is that there's a dangerous condition on public property and that the city either knew about it or should have known about it and then failed to repair it or failed to warn the public," said Jurewitz.

While not every call turns into a lawsuit, many do, and the city is already spending millions to settle the cases.

One settlement will be approved this week by the City Council. The city will pay $1.7 million to Regina Copabianco, a woman who was injured while riding a Segway scooter over crumbling sidewalks in La Jolla. She shattered her pelvis in a crash.

In another high-profile case, the city paid $4.85 million in 2017 to Clifford Brown. He crashed his bike because of bad sidewalks in Del Cerro and tore ligaments in his spinal cord.

In just the last few months, at least five similar lawsuits have been filed against the city. One is from the family of a man who died after his Segway hit an exposed four-inch light pole base near the Old Town Trolley Station.

City representatives didn't return 10News’ request for comments on the new cases, but the City Attorney's Office has filed several briefs in court denying the allegations.

Meanwhile, work continues to fix the city's crumbling sidewalks. In 2014, the city released a sidewalk report that showed the extent of the problem. A survey of almost 5,000 miles of sidewalk and streets showed nearly 78,000 problems that need to be fixed.

Doing all that could take years, leaving the city at risk to more lawsuits.

"It's a huge chunk of taxpayer money," said Jurewitz. "It's money that, if properly budgeted, could be allocated to repair the defects that the city already knows about. They could avoid these issues."

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