Appeals court says Bakersfield woman can sue over crosswalk injury

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A young Bakersfield woman will get her day in court as she seeks to prove the city built an unsafe crosswalk in front of her high school.

Emma Kiaie was hit by a pickup as she crossed Jewetta Avenue in front of Liberty High School.

There are warning lights and signs now, but in 2014, when she was hurt, there was only a crosswalk in front of the school.

She was in the crosswalk when she was hit. She was 14 at the time and suffered severe injuries. She is still recovering.

Her suit against the City of Bakersfield said a crosswalk that’s not at a street corner and doesn’t have warning signs creates an unsafe condition. It invites pedestrians to cross the street but doesn’t warn drivers to beware.

The city claimed it was immune from lawsuits under a legal doctrine that prevents juries from second-guessing expert engineers.

Kiaie’s lawyers, the R. Rex Parris Law firm of Lancaster, argued the city did not go through the proper planning process before installing the crosswalk. That meant they failed to use engineering expertise and so were not immune from suit.

Trial judge Sidney P. Chapin agreed with the Kiaie’s lawyers and ordered the trial to proceed.

The city’s lawyers filed an appeal of Chapin’s order.

The three-justice 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno this week unanimously agreed with Chapin, and permitted the case to proceed. Justices ordered the city to pay the Kiaie’s legal fees.

The city still has the option of appealing the case to the California Supreme court.

The case is City of Bakersfield v. Superior Court, http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/nonpub/F075588.PDF

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