Stufkosky v. Department of TransportationAnnotate this Case
Appellants’ father died in a multi-car accident caused by a deer crossing State Route 154 (SR-154). Appellants sued respondent California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and others for negligence. They alleged the road constituted a dangerous condition under Government Code section 835. The trial court found that design immunity applied to Caltrans and granted summary judgment. Appellants contend the trial court erred when it found design immunity was a complete defense to Caltrans’ liability. They also contend the court failed to address a separate basis of liability, failed to warn when it ruled on the motion for summary judgment.
The Second Appellate District affirmed. Appellants’ theory of the case, in sum, is that Caltrans designed SR-154 without certain specific features they contend would have made the highway safer. The court explained that Caltrans need not produce additional evidence to prove this point. A traffic engineer attested to the applicable design standards and how Caltrans addressed the dangers posed by deer entering traffic and vehicles crossing the median. This constitutes substantial evidence of advance approval. The court wrote that it would not second-guess the decision of Caltrans to include or omit certain design features. The court concluded that substantial evidence showed that a reasonable public employee would have adopted the SR-154 design plans, even without the features and changes Appellants contend Caltrans should have considered and included.