On April 15, 2014, the Los Angeles Times published a front page article relative to the disrepair of Los Angeles sidewalks and the ineptness of City officials in effectuating repair [Fn1]. According to the article, the Bureau of Street Services has estimated that about 40% of street sidewalks need repair or replacement. Additionally, the City has about $10 million dollars of funds devoted to sidewalk repair which have not been utilized, and are in danger of being returned to the general fund.
The legal implications of this situation pose great concern for the City. As sidewalks known by the City to be in disrepair continue to cause injuries to the public, the City will face a continual increase in lawsuits and legal costs.
Municipal liability for injuries caused by a dangerous condition of public property is set forth in California Government Code Section 835:
835. Except as provided by statute, a public entity is liable for
injury caused by a dangerous condition of its property if the
plaintiff establishes that the property was in a dangerous condition
at the time of the injury, that the injury was proximately caused by
the dangerous condition, that the dangerous condition created a
reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred,
and that either:
(a) A negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the
public entity within the scope of his employment created the
dangerous condition; or
(b) The public entity had actual or constructive notice of the
dangerous condition under Section 835.2 a sufficient time prior to
the injury to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous
Thus, so long as the City has actual or constructive knowledge that a sidewalk was in a dangerous condition at the time of an injury, the City will be liable for an injury caused by that sidewalk. Given the recent press and the estimate that 40% of sidewalks are in disrepair, this should be alarming not only to City officials, but also to the taxpayers who ultimately will have to pay for the City’s failure to fix its sidewalks.
In addition to City liability, landowners can be liable for sidewalk disrepair pursuant to Los Angeles Municipal Code, Chapter VI, Section 62.103:
When a sidewalk, driveway or curb constructed on any street shall be out of repair or in need of reconstruction, or in a condition to endanger persons or property passing thereon, or in a condition to interfere with the public convenience in the use thereof, the Board may require that the owners or occupants of lots or portions of lots fronting on said sidewalk, or curb and on the same side of the street where such sidewalk, driveway or curb is located to repair or reconstruct the sidewalk, driveway or curb, or both.
Thus, landowners should take any City communications relative to sidewalk repair seriously. The only exception provided in section 62.103 is when the repair or reconstruction is the result of tree root growth, in which case, the Board makes the repairs at no cost to the adjoining property owner.
In summary, both the City and adjoining property owners can and will be held liable for disrepair to sidewalks which cause injury. The current situation of disrepair is alarming and all Angelenos should take extra precautions when utilizing City sidewalks.
[Fn1] The article can be found online at http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-sidewalk-repairs-20140416,0,439171.story