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Man files suit against city over median crash

Driver says he couldn't see unlighted Verdugo Boulevard sign.

April 20, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com

An attorney who described an unlighted traffic median and the remains of a city welcome sign along Verdugo Boulevard as a roadway hazard is asking city officials to foot the bill for damages sustained after he drove his car into it.

Roderick Lipscomb, of La Cañada Flintridge, drove over the median’s curb during a heavy rainstorm on the night on Dec. 20.

But just 10 days earlier, a driver who Sheriff’s Department investigators said was texting while driving damaged the stone welcome sign near Verdugo Hills Hospital and knocked out power to median lights that Lipscomb argues could have prevented the accident.

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“We could not see it. It was terrifying. I’m just thankful we weren’t hurt,” Lipscomb, who was traveling with his wife at the time of the incident, told City Council members on Monday.

As further evidence that the median was too difficult to see, Lipscomb added that a short time after he pulled away from the median to wait for a tow truck, another vehicle also struck the median area.

City workers have since repaired the sign but have yet to restore its lighting.

Lipscomb is seeking $2,646.65 to repair two blown tires, damaged suspension struts and scrapes to the fender of his Honda Pilot. He said he plans to sue the city if his claim is denied.

After hearing Lipscomb, council members agreed to consider the matter in a future closed session meeting despite a recommendation of the city’s third-party claims administrator, Carl Warren and Co., to deny it.

“There are a lot of things going on here, the weather and what the actual condition of the median was at the time,” said Councilman Steve Del Guercio, whose motion called for a closed-session discussion.

But in a report to council members, the claims adjuster argued that street reflectors and yellow reflective curb paint should have made the median visible to Lipscomb.

Lipscomb said street reflectors were submerged in rainwater and the median curb was not visible due to the darkness and inclement weather. Following the accident, city officials placed reflective barricades around the median’s edges and later added yellow reflective paint around the entire base of the median.

“The city, by its conduct [after the accident], acknowledged the dangerousness of the condition,” said Lipscomb.

City Traffic Manager Erik Zandvliet said Tuesday that he did not know how many accidents had occurred at the median but was researching the matter for the council.
 
 

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