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MTA Loses Lawsuit Against Train Station Designer

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently lost a lawsuit against a company that designed a train station’s stairwell banister.

The MTA was sued after a passenger fell at a Los Angeles rail station. Train rider Jose Madrigal alleged that he fell at the 4th & Hill Street station stairwell because, “among other defects, the banister of the stairwell was too low and the stairwell too small given the number, age, and volume of persons entering and exiting the Metro Rail station.”

Seeking to spread the cost of this premises liability lawsuit around, the MTA cross-sued various contractors and companies responsible for designing the station. The MTA’s efforts to pass on the burden of the lawsuit recently failed.

Premises Liability and Statute of Limitations

A California court recently found that the alleged MTA stairwell defect was a “patent deficiency.” Patent deficiencies in premises liability law are property defects which are apparent with a reasonable inspection. (Contrasted with “latent deficiencies,” which are hidden.)

In this case, the court found that the size and height of the stairwell banister was obvious and invoked the 4-year statute of limitations period for premises liability claims based on patent deficiencies. The station was built in 1993, which means that the company which built the banister could not be sued for Jose Madrigal’s 2011 fall.

Citation: Delon Hampton & Associates, CHTD vs. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 227 Cal.App.4th 250, 173 Cal.Rptr.3d 407, 14 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 7010, June 23, 2014

The Los Angeles area law firm of Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP handles premises liability cases, including those involving slip-and-fall accidents on public property.

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