HILL'S BILLS: STATE SENATE LEGISLATION
PACIFICA POLICE TAKEDOWNS

LAWSUIT OVER PEDESTRIAN DEATH @ SAM'S CHOWDER HOUSE

On August 31, the family of 74-year-old pedestrian Vicente Marquez, who was killed last September by a CHP vehicle while trying to cross Highway 1 to retrieve his parked car at Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay, has filed a $25 million wrongful-death lawsuit alleging inadequate safety measures for pedestrians at that location. (Case #18CIV04569). Defendants include the City of Half Moon Bay, the State of California, CHP, Caltrans, and Sam's Chowder House owners.

Alan Wald

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Thanks for the link, Alan.

Carl, the lawsuit describes how the dangerous situation was created, pretty much as you described.

I think the defendants would be crazy to go to a jury trial. I think a jury would be eager to find the county, state, CHP, and every other deep-pocket agency listed in the lawsuit at fault, and also Sam's for creating the situation and encouraging its customers to park on the east side of the highway. That's why I think it will be settled out of court for much less than the $25 million they're asking for.

Next step in the process, Case Management Conference, scheduled for Jan. 19, 2019.

For those interested, here is the lawsuit, as filed:
https://odyportal-ext.sanmateocourt.org/Portal-External/DocumentViewer/Embedded/l6rkBMRAh-HhYW8R8jPgbEqy3GClecxCzqSH3G6oNvxrl5N8LYY9Z9SJwEZftVCERMPWZRQOn3hwRNwvQj-JYy5QAsgPXBHhHUEb8OvvaY81?p=0

Thanks for that info, Carl. I do remember some of it. I thought some of that property was in the county's jurisdiction, not the City of Half Moon Bay. Plaintiffs should also be suing the county.

Of course, this will probably never see the inside of a courtroom. It will be less costly and less risky for the deep-pocket defendants to settle out of court with many millions of taxpayer dollars.

Youse guys are way late and information short on this problematic location. After an unpermitted start that was halted but later received all needed approvals (a long story), the east side of the highway was widened with grading equipment and paved at the restaurant's expense for the purpose of creating more customer parking. Thus, restaurant/bar customers were tacitly encouraged to park on the east side and cross the highway there in purposeful defiance of common sense and gross disregard for safety.

The restaurant is on the end of the "cherry stem" the City of Half Moon Bay has extending up to the harbor, but the east side of Highway 1 is in the unincorporated county. The entire messed-up stretch from the Capistrano light to the Coronado light is a story of one bad governmental (city, county, state) decision after another--bad government cubed, one might say.

"In Pacifica it's obvious a car would be blocking the right of way and you'd earn a ticket (and possibly a tow), but in HMB it's not quite as obvious." There have been a few weekends when cars were parked on the west side of the highway at Linda Mar Beach. They were not ticketed or towed. But the police did put out "no parking" signs the next weekend. This past weekend, cars were parked illegally in the bike lane of the north Rockaway parking lot. This has happened many times and the cars are never ticketed or towed.

"There is a long history of people parking and dodging traffic to get to the beach. Caltrans is actively working on the safety issue. Caltrans is actively working on the safety issue." What does that mean? Any specifics? Sounds like bureaucratese for "it's on someone's desk."

"No Parking" signs are not present along that stretch of highway. Although we know you're not supposed to park along Highway 1, how would the average visitor know this? Who is responsible for issuing parking tickets on a state highway, local law enforcement or CHP? Can they ticket if it is not posted? In Pacifica it's obvious a car would be blocking the right of way and you'd earn a ticket (and possibly a tow), but in HMB it's not quite as obvious. There is a long history of people parking and dodging traffic to get to the beach. Caltrans is actively working on the safety issue.

Alan, if the defendants argue that "motorists who park on the east side of Highway 1 are expected to walk the 1/4 mile north to Alhambra Avenue, cross the highway, then walk another 1/4 mile south to Sam's," besides taking leave of their common sense, they will be arguing that motorists should be able to park (illegally) on the side of a state highway in a highly trafficked area across from a commercial development. I rather doubt that argument would be accepted by the court.

Carl, yes, San Mateo County is included as a defendant. Interesting that the lawsuit focuses on -- not whether the CHP officer involved had the "last clear chance" to avoid the accident -- but rather on a general concern expressed over the years about pedestrian safety along that stretch of Highway 1 even though it is expressly forbidden for pedestrians to cross there (jaywalking law applies).

Defendants may argue that motorists who park on the east side of Highway 1 are expected to walk the 1/4 mile north to Alhambra Avenue, cross the highway, then walk another 1/4 mile south to Sam's.

The County of San Mateo needs to be among the defendants for its part in creating the danger. Best wishes to the family of Marquez for success in this legal action against participants in a situation that should never have been allowed.

This was an accident waiting to happen. I'm surprised there haven't been more. Maybe there have been, but they haven't been as serious as this one. I drive down the coast frequently. I was just down there Friday night, driving to my gig at Cameron's. People park illegally all over the place near Sam's. Many people are parked on both sides of the highway. They should not be there. I would point the finger of blame at the Sheriff's Office for not ticketing all those illegally parked cars and at Caltrans and the City of Half Moon Bay for not putting "no parking" signs there. The commercial development in that area does not provide sufficient parking, but the solution should not be illegally parking on the side of the highway. The result will always be people crossing illegally from Sam's to get to their illegally parked cars. Every time I go through there on a busy evening, I think to myself that somebody is going to get hit. It's a dangerous situation created by the negligence of Caltrans, Half Moon Bay, and the Sheriff's Office.

Given that Marquez jaywalked (he crossed between two adjacent intersections both controlled by traffic lights), he shouldn't have crossed there under any circumstances. So why should provisions be made for safer crossing (i.e., better lighting) where crossing isn't allowed?

The only caveat I can imagine is if Sam's Chowder House instructs customers to cross there to access additional parking (which apparently it paid for to provide) instead of advising them to cross at the Alhambra intersection.

None of this exonerates the CHP driver in a tort lawsuit -- i.e., you can't legally run someone down just because they jaywalked -- but the lawsuit doesn't address the CHP officer's conduct (nor the CHP final report of the accident), except in noting the absence of pedestrian safety measures at that location, which the officer should have been aware of.

Verdict: in favor of defendants.

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