California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County,
No. BC626459 Marc R. Marmaro, Judge.
Raymond Ghermezian for Plaintiffs and Appellants.
Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester, Sevan Gobel and
Ladell Hulet Muhlestein for Defendant and Respondent.
rule deciding this case is look where you are going. In broad
daylight, Cynthia Dobbs walked into a round concrete pillar.
It was 17.5 inches wide and 17.5 inches tall. A field of
these unpainted pillars, also called bollards, protects the
Los Angeles Convention Center from car bombs. They are the
height of your average coffee table. Dobbs walked into one of
them and sued the City of Los Angeles because it allegedly
created a dangerous condition that caused her to trip and
fall. The trial court granted summary judgment against her.
two million people visit the convention center yearly. More
than 50 bollards are in front of its south hall. For the nine
years before Dobbs's accident, no one filed an injury
City successfully invoked a statutory defense called design
immunity. Design immunity shields public entities from
personal injury claims when a public employee reasonably
exercised discretionary authority when approving the design
at issue. (Gov. Code, § 830.6.)
immunity has three required elements. (Hampton v. County
of San Diego (2015) 62 Cal.4th 340, 342
(Hampton).) The City successfully established all
by the first element, which the City satisfied, according to
Dobbs's stipulation at oral argument.
second element requires discretionary approval of the design
before construction. (Hampton, supra, 62 Cal.4th at
p. 342.) City Engineer Robert Horii approved the plans, which
bore his office's official stamp.
faults a declaration about the design approval process but it
was adequate. Discretionary approval need not be established
with testimony of the people who approved the project.
Testimony about the entity's discretionary approval
custom and practice can be proper even though the witness was
not personally involved in the approval process.
(Gonzales v. City of Atwater (2016) 6 Cal.App.5th
929, 947.) The declarant here had 14 years of experience in
the relevant agency as a project manager. This pertinent
personal experience is substantial and sufficient. The trial
court properly overruled Dobbs's objections to this
third element is whether there is any substantial evidence of
the reasonableness of the public entity's approval of the
design. This question is one of law, not fact. (Rodriguez
v. Department of Transportation (2018) 21 Cal.App.5th
947, 955.) The evidence of reasonableness need not be
undisputed, as the statute provides immunity when there is
substantial evidence of reasonableness, even if contradicted.
(Grenier v. City of Irwindale (1997) 57 Cal.App.4th
931, 940.) The statute grants immunity as long as reasonable
minds can differ concerning whether a design should have been
approved. The design need not be perfect but merely
reasonable under the circumstances. (Ibid.; cf. Gov.
Code, § 830.2 [a condition is not dangerous if a trial
or appellate court determines the condition created only a
minor risk of injury].)
trial court rightly found this exercise of approval authority
was reasonable. Key evidence included how this bollard looked
on the sidewalk. It was big. It was designed to stop cars. It
was obvious to pedestrians who looked where they were going.
There is more proof of reasonableness, but we need not recite
it because reasonable minds would agree this bollard in this
location was conspicuous and not a danger to pedestrians.
(See Davis v. City of Pasadena (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th
701, 704-705.) It was reasonable to approve this plan.
offers misdirected arguments. She faults declarations
referring to two rows of bollards when she says there were
three rows. The number of rows does not matter when the
important thing from a tripping ...