Lawsuit Filed against Torrance and TUSD on Behalf of Child Injured in Crosswalk

The City of Torrance and the Torrance Unified School District (TUSD) have recently been sued in Los Angeles Superior Court by Stephanie Clift acting on behalf of her minor son Justin.  The lawsuit stems from a terrible accident that occurred in October 2014 when Justin was hit by a car in a crosswalk near Walteria elementary.  Justin, only 5 years old at the time, suffered a traumatic brain injury in the incident and still has not regained full consciousness.

The lawsuit alleges that Walteria Elementary had inadequate parking and driveways close to the school to allow for the pick-up and drop off of elementary age children.  This resulted in parents utilizing the intersection at Madison and Newton as a drop off point for students.

The suit also claims that in order to avoid traffic during rush hour that vehicles cut through the side streets surrounding the school, including Madison and Newton, and that defendants, the City of Torrance and TUSD, knew or should have known that this increased traffic mandated the use of a crossing guard at the intersection, or at the very least additional signage.  The suit further claims that defendants were negligent for failing to correct this dangerous situation and protect students as they were trying to get to and from school.

To defend the suit, the City Council is set to approve at this evening’s Council meeting a fee agreement with the law firm of Woodruff, Spradlin & Smart in the amount of $416,000.  In the initial answer to the complaint, the City denied all liability and asserted that plaintiff, by his conduct, assumed all hazards or risks and that his conduct contributed to the injury thereby absolving the defendants of any liability.

Another listed defendant in the suit is Herbert Hirschmann, the driver of the vehicle.  Stephanie had previously expressed frustration that nearly a year after the accident that the driver had not received so much as a ticket due to the unwillingness of the City prosecutor to file charges.

Shortly after the accident, and at the behest of many parents of Walteria children, the City initiated a study to review the crossing guard program.  Eight months later, the City Council approved the relocation of 5 existing crossing guard posts and the temporary addition of crossing guards at 3 new sites.  One of the new sites to receive a crossing guard was the site of the accident at the busy intersection of Newton and Madison.

The relocation took effect at the beginning of the current school year and resulted in some school sites losing crossing guards.  Anza Elementary, for example, lost guards at the busy intersection of Carson/Anza and also at Ruby/Palos Verdes.  Arnold, Edision, and Fern Elementary also lost crossing guards at certain locations.

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