A California jury returned an $11.7 verdict recently in favor of a woman and her daughter in a lawsuit against Contra Costa County. The case arose out of a failure by the county to keep a road safe for drivers during road resurfacing work, resulting in the death of a 56-year-old man, William Tindall. The incident occurred on a public road in unincorporated Brentwood on August 20, 2008. This was one of 15 serious accidents that occurred on the stretch of highway in 21 days of resurfacing work. Mr. Tindall, the decedent, left a wife and daughter.
Tindall, a journeyman plumber and longtime Contra Costa resident, was on his way to a job at a hospital early that morning when he pulled over to help an Army reservist whose SUV ran off the roadway and overturned after losing control on a curve that was covered with gravel. Tindall had exited his own vehicle when a second car ran off the road in the same spot and fatally struck him. Five days earlier, a woman was killed when she lost control of her vehicle in the construction zone.
Tindall’s wife, Laura, and daughter, Erin, who was ten when her father died, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Contra Costa County and the California Highway Patrol. The jury found the CHP free from fault. The county erected 25 mph speed limit signs during resurfacing, but it failed to cover permanent higher speed limit signs that were more prominent to motorists, as per state guidelines. The situation was made more dangerous due to the county’s practice of keeping excess gravel on the roadway overnight in lieu of the industry practice of sweeping at day’s end.
The county resurfaced the road in question in 1994, 2001 and 2008, totaling 21 days of roadwork. During those 21 days there were 15 accidents on the roadway. A county employee testified that after Tindall’s death, covering signs and sweeping excess gravel became a standard practice during its resurfacing projects. The verdict calls for $1.5 million in economic damages, and $10.2 million for emotional pain and suffering based on the widow and daughter’s close relationship to Tindall. The family was packed and ready to go on vacation in Yosemite the week of the accident. Luke Ellis, a lawyer from Orinda, Calif., represented the family, and did a very good job.
Source: Mercury News
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