CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Domenic Martini delivering his opening statement
San Diego, CA - A California state court jury heard opening statements Tuesday in a lawsuit claiming a supposedly dangerous road condition caused a car-on-pedestrian collision that left one man dead and another seriously injured, and the full trial is being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
An attorney for the family of Jorge Lopez and Jaime Leonen, deceased, accuse the City of San Diego of allowing parking in an unpaved area alongside a road directly across from the Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. The family claims the location forced pedestrians to cross a busy roadway to get to the hospital, but an attorney for the city argued the accident occurred due to Lopez and Leonen supposedly not paying adequate attention to traffic while they crossed.
Attorney Domenic Martini of Singleton Schreiber, who represents the plaintiffs, argued to jurors that the City of San Diego received multiple complaints and warnings about the unpaved parking area adjacent to Health Center Drive across from the hospital, and that an earlier car-on-pedestrian accident in 2015, the same year the accident in question occurred, didn’t spur city officials to take any action.
Martini told jurors the hospital’s CEO raised concerns with the City in the early 2000’s about staff and visitors crossing from the parking area to the hospital, but that even in light of those complaints the City designated the parking area as a “non-enforcement” area, meaning people would be free to park there without any risk of ticketing penalties.
“Despite his warnings the city did nothing and parking continued,” Martini said, according to CVN’s webcast of the proceedings.
He pointed out to jurors that the nearest crosswalks were a long distance from the parking area, resulting in frequent pedestrians crossing the double-yellow-lined road, and that a dip in the road supposedly made it difficult at times to see oncoming cars, especially at night when the accident occurred.
Martini detailed how Lopez and Leonen, along with accompanying family members, planned to visit the hospital in the evening but that they were struck by a doctor returning to the hospital from picking up a pizza. Leonen died at the scene, and Lopez suffered multiple spinal fractures that eventually required extensive fusion surgeries.
Martini said at the conclusion of the trial his team would ask for roughly $2.3 million in economic damages. He did not specify an amount of non-economic damages, but an attorney for the city indicated in her opening that amount would exceed $10 million.
Representing the City, Deputy City Attorney Kelly McGeehan characterized the amount of damages requested by the plaintiffs as “not fair and not reasonable” and said the evidence would show that Lopez and Leonen were looking at a cell phone while crossing the street and failed to take reasonable care to look out for oncoming traffic.
“It’s about personal responsibility,” she said.
CVN screenshot of defense attorney Kelly McGeehan delivering her opening statement
McGeehan argued that at the location in question pedestrians had an unobstructed field of view equivalent to two football fields in both directions, while also telling jurors that Lopez had a more complete recovery than his attorney suggested, and that jurors should be skeptical about his claims related future medical expenses and lost earning capacity.
The trial is taking place before Judge Richard Whitney, and CVN’s coverage will continue for the duration of the proceedings.
The case is captioned Lopez v. City of San Diego, case number in San Diego County Superior Court.
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