Early last year, you might remember the case of Jesse Hernandez. Jesse was a 13 year old boy who was playing here in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park (between the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood) during a family Easter celebration, when his family suddenly noticed him missing. They searched all over the park calling his name without success. Eventually they realized that he may have fallen into a drainage pipe after a wooden plank he had been standing on gave way and he fell approximately 25 feet into the sewage line. A massive multi-agency search commenced on ground and in the air. Search and rescue specialists ended up dropping video cameras into the sewage lines and were able to detect hands marks on the walls of the underground pipeline which allowed them to narrow down the area he might be. For over 12 hours Jesse wandered the sewage system yelling for help and trying to find his way out.
The fire department, assisted by the LAPD, the California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks, Park Rangers, the Department of Water and Power and the Department of Sanitation, eventually were able to locate him, gain entrance to the tunnel, pull him out of the tunnel, and get him proper medical care to treat his injuries from both the fall and from exposure to raw sewage and chemicals while underground. All of this occurred because the city had simply covered up an exposed drainage pipe with some wooden boards at a poorly cordoned-off sanitation facility.
Public parks can also include sports facilities like tennis and basketball courts, public pools, city benches, volleyball areas by the beach, etc. The thing that they all share is that they are owned and operated by the city and as such, it’s the city’s responsibility to make sure that they are maintained in a state that is safe for anyone using those facilities.
This doesn’t only mean open drainage ditches, but can include broken playground equipment, poorly maintained asphalt so that rain gathers in areas and poses a specific danger to people using it as intended, damaged chain link fencing that is sharp and dangerous, uncared-for trees whose branches might split and fall, anything that poses an inordinate or unreasonable danger to children or adults.
Therefore, if you or a loved one is injured at a city park (or similar area) you may well have the legal right to be compensated by the city. The legal doctrine of “premises liability” states that an owner or landlord of property (here, the city) has a duty of care to protect visitors and users (like you or your family) from accidents that occur on it. However, the only way to get paid is to hire a skilled attorney who can analyze the facts of the case and determine the city’s legal responsibility.
For over 30 years, we have been that attorney. If you or someone you know has been injured at a public park or similar facility, please call us today for your free consultation at (310) 444-3010 or toll-free at (888) 293-0404.