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Jury awards San Diego man $4.5 million in trip and fall case

Mark Brownlee was walking to his home in Pacific Beach in 2018 when he fell on a raised section of sidewalk.
Credit: CBS 8

SAN DIEGO — A jury in San Diego ordered the city to pay $4.5 million dollars to a man for injuries he sustained after tripping over a raised sidewalk in Pacific Beach in 2018. 

According to the lawsuit, Brownlee fell on a raised section of sidewalk on the 1600-block of Diamond Street in Pacific Beach while walking home from having dinner at the Pacific Beach Cantina.

The multi-million dollar July 29 verdict signaled a close to a three-year legal battle between attorneys for the plaintiff, Mark Brownlee, and San Diego's City Attorney's Office.

A legal fight, says Brownlee's attorney Daryoosh Khashayar, would never have been needed if the city had fixed the sidewalk when it became aware of it as far back as 2008.

"The city knew about this sidewalk and had been out there three times since 2008 without doing anything more than putting a temporary patch on it," said Khashayar. "There was no follow through after they put the patch. They would close the file after each complaint without any verification that the work was done. They went back out in 2015 and did nothing to fix it. And in 2017, more than a year before Mr. Brownlee was injured, the city had an internal system notification to have the subject sidewalk sliced, and even it out, but it never got done, and no one from the city knew why." 

Credit: CBS 8
Photo of temporary patch on sidewalk

Brownlee, according to attorney Khashayar, suffered a brain injury, and shattered his shoulder in the fall.

Credit: CBS 8
Photo of raised sidewalk

In January of this year, the adjacent property owner agreed to pay Brownlee $50,000 in damages for their share of responsibility. 

Credit: CBS 8
A photo of the sidewalk after repairs

On July 7, the jury trial began, The trial lasted just over two weeks, with the jury issuing its verdict on July 29.

In its verdict, obtained by CBS 8, the jury found the city had "notice of the dangerous condition for a long enough time for the City of San Diego to have protected against it."

Credit: CBS 8

The jury also found the city to be 100 percent responsible for the fall.

The verdict comes on the heels of a nearly $900,000 that a judge awarded a 74-year-old woman who stepped in a pothole and broke her ankles. The judgment case was a result of the city failing to make a defense in the case. A spokesperson for the City Attorney's Office said their office was not served properly in the case and the office will challenge the judgment.

It also comes as the city continues to pay smaller claims for those injured in trip and fall lawsuits. 

During the month of June, the city paid nearly $334,000 to people injured in trip and fall cases. 

When asked about the June payouts, a spokesperson for Mayor Todd Gloria told CBS 8 that the mayor was working to fix what the previous administration failed to address.

"San Diego’s infrastructure has deteriorated because past administrations failed to invest in badly needed repairs," said the spokesperson in a July 15 statement. "The City has recently made an unprecedented commitment to address those needs with the largest infrastructure investment in City history through Mayor Gloria's Ready to Rebuild Budget for fiscal year 2023, which began on July 1, 2022. We are focused on making operational improvements like streamlining contracting procedures, reforming outdated policies like our development impact fee structure with the Build Better SD program, and putting equity at the center of everything we're working toward." 

As for the July 29 verdict, the City Attorney's Office did not respond to CBS 8's request for comment in time for publication. The story will be updated when or if it does.

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