The City of San Diego this month paid $1 million to a woman who suffered serious and permanent injuries after tripping and falling in a street in University Heights.
That victim’s attorney said his client’s injuries -- and that huge expense to San Diego taxpayers -- could have been avoided if city workers had properly responded to warnings from two residents who watched dozens of people trip and sometimes injure themselves for more than five years at that same spot.
NBC 7 also confirmed that last year alone, the city paid more than $5 million in settlements and legal judgments to people who were injured while walking or riding their bike on defective city streets and sidewalks.
The problem at the southwest corner of Park Boulevard and Madison Avenue was a raised “lip” of concrete in the street, just a few feet off the curb.
It’s a very busy intersection, so pedestrians tend to watch closely for cars coming from both directions as they step off the curb.
They can’t look down at the same time, and dozens, if not hundreds of them had tripped on that defective spot.
Shantih Beeman saw many of those trips and falls while sitting outside Twiggs coffee shop, on that same corner. Beeman has worked at Twiggs for ten years, and spends hours relaxing and smoking outside the shop.
When Beeman saw a pregnant woman trip, fall and hurt herself in 2015, he said he called City Hall and described the problem, in detail, to a city employee.
"But she just kind of brushed it off, like I didn't know what the hell I was talking about," Beeman recalled.
Attorney Robert Francavilla, who represents the woman who later tripped on that same concrete lip and received the $1 million payment, told NBC 7 his client most surely would not have fallen if the city had made a quick and inexpensive repair at that spot after receiving Beeman’s phone call.
Instead, Francavilla’s client suffered two severely fractured wrists and significant and permanent partial vision loss caused by a stroke she suffered as a result of her other injuries.
"It's our position that it's something that absolutely did not have to happen," Francavilla said.
The attorney said the city also acknowledged that another person called city hall and warned an employee about the dangerous conditions at that intersection before his client was hurt.
Francavilla said the city could significantly reduce the amount it pays for sidewalk and street injury claims by properly tracking and following up on citizen complaints and warnings about trip and fall hazards.
“If you're going to do nothing else, at least listen to the citizens of our community when they're doing their Good Samaritan deed for the day,” Francavilla said. “They’re calling up, taking time out of their day, to tell the City, 'Hey you got a problem here. It's a danger. Do something about it.’"
The City Attorney and City Communications office did not respond to specific questions about trips and falls at that intersection, or Francavilla’s and Beeman’s comments.
But a spokesman told NBC 7 the city is "committed to safe streets and sidewalks through aggressive paving and sidewalk repair.
“Along with paving more than 800 miles of road and repairing more than 400,000 square feet of sidewalk in the last 3 years, we continue to encourage the reporting and uploading of photos of damaged sidewalks and potholes through our ‘Get It Done’ app," the spokesperson said.