City Crosswalk Design Blamed At Trial For Elderly Pedestrian’s Death, Watch Online via CVN

Posted by David Siegel on Mar 7, 2023 11:32:46 AM

Arash openings

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Arash Homampour delivering his opening statement

Los Angeles, CA - A California state court jury heard opening statements Monday in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the City of Glendale by an 80-year-old woman’s family claiming the design of an unmarked city crosswalk resulted in a fatal collision with an oncoming vehicle.

Novar Ismailyan died while using the crosswalk at night in December of 2018. Her family sued the City of Glendale the following year arguing the lack of road striping and flashing lights or beacons in a busy urban area with significant foot traffic created a dangerous condition, but the city maintains her death was caused entirely by the supposedly excessive speed of the oncoming driver.

The full trial is being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network. By signing up for a monthly or annual subscription to CVN’s online trial video library, subscribers get unlimited live and on-demand access to the ongoing trial in addition to hundreds more civil trials in CVN’s video archive from throughout California and around the country.

(Related - Check out 20 "must-watch" plaintiff and defense verdicts from California trials - all included as part of CVN's video archive among hundreds more cases)

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Plaintiff attorney Arash Homampour of the Homampour Law Firm, representing Ismailyan’s family, explained to jurors that vehicle impacts with pedestrians at 40 miles-per-hour, the speed limit at the location of the accident, present an 85 percent risk of fatality. He argued a risk that substantial required the city to take greater measures to warn drivers about the potential for pedestrians in the road.

Homampour explained the dangers were exacerbated by a number of inoperative streetlights in the area, and that the lack of road striping in particular prevented drivers from being able to brake in time to potentially avoid a collision.

“From a traffic engineering perspective the motorist has no visual cue whatsoever even in daytime that there is going to be a pedestrian in front of them,” he told the jury, according to CVN’s webcast of the trial.

He suggested the fact a crosswalk existed at all indicated to pedestrians that drivers would be aware of their presence and reduce their speed accordingly, noting the city even added texturized markings in the crosswalk so it could be utilized by blind people.

“Pedestrians believe that if they’re crossing on a crosswalk, marked or unmarked, the city has decided it’s safe,” Homampour stressed. 

He claimed the city previously recognized the necessity of these markings, as photographs showed the presence of painted road striping at the location from the 1950’s through as late as 2001. While city records did not indicate when or why the striping was removed, he cited the fact the texturized markings for blind pedestrians were added in 2008 as evidence the city was fully aware of the unmarked crosswalk.

Homampour claimed there was no evidence the city ever performed any safety studies at the location, and he pushed back on the suggestion that lack of prior similar accidents indicated the crosswalk was safe.

“There is no ‘you get one free death before you declare its unsafe’ rule,” he argued. 

Representing the City of Glendale, defense attorney Dana McCune of McCune & Harber LLP expressed sympathy for Ismailyan’s family but maintained the lack of markings at the crosswalk did not meet the legal standard for a dangerous condition.

McCune openings

CVN screenshot of defense attorney Dana McCune delivering his opening statement

He detailed that roughy 100 million vehicles passed the same intersection in a busy urban area over the span of many years without a single vehicle-on-pedestrian accident. He also noted the presence of multiple similarly unmarked crosswalks in the immediate area, explaining it’s a commonly used design that complies with applicable safety standards.

McCune told jurors a 40 mile-per hour speed limit for the road where the accident occurred was entirely reasonable, and he highlighted the presence of a luminous reflective speed limit sign in the immediate vicinity of the accident location. However he argued the car’s driver, Mira Gjura (who is no longer an active defendant in the case) ignored it and drove at nearly 50 miles-per-hour

“It’s a speed limit that notwithstanding the sign Ms. Gjura chose to completely disregard,” he said.

McCune added that accident reconstruction experts determined Gjura did apply her brakes before the collision, which he said proved pedestrians like Ismailyan were visible to oncoming drivers. He said those same experts also found that had Gjura been driving at the speed limit she could have avoided the collision entirely.

“Her speed, 10 miles-per-hour over the speed limit, is the cause of this accident,” he concluded.

The trial is taking place before Judge Frederick Shaller and is expected to take roughly two weeks to complete. CVN’s gavel-to-gavel coverage, including all expert witness testimony, will continue for the duration of the proceedings.

The case is captioned Sheram Nadimyan, et al. v. City of Glendale, case number 19STCV29013, in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Topics: California