Menahem Heskel ("Heskel") suffered injuries when he tripped over a protruding base of a hollow metal post cemented into the City's sidewalk while walking at night. He sued the City of San Diego, claiming the area was not properly lit and there were not adequate warnings of the dangerous condition.
The trial court dismissed the case, finding that the City did not have notice of the condition. On appeal, the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Court found that the hollow sign pole base was not "obvious" enough to provide the City with constructive notice of the condition.
Under California law, a public entity can only be liable for a dangerous condition of public property, if (1) the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the injury; (2) that the injury was caused by the dangerous condition; (3) that the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury; and (4) that the public entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition prior to the injury. (Gov. Code, § 835).
Although Heskel presented evidence that the condition had existed for more than one year, the City had no record of complaints about the condition, and there was no evidence to show that the condition was "substantial or readily apparent from the street." In evaluating Heskel's pictures of the condition, the court stated that the "pictures show a condition that was roughly a few inches in height. Evidence of a condition of that nature, without more, is not a prima facie showing that the condition was obvious."
Thus, the Court concluded that Heskel had failed to show that the City had notice of the condition.
Whether a public agency has constructive notice of a dangerous condition is a fact-intensive inquiry that depends on the size and visibility of the condition, prior complaints to the agency regarding the condition, and other factors that bear on the agency's knowledge of the condition prior to the injury.
Heskel v. City of San Diego (2014) 227 Cal.App.4th 313