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San Diego failed to fix a broken sidewalk, exposed bolts; now a teen is prepared to sue after serious injuries

The city was first noticed about the raised sidewalk in 2017 and then again in 2021 but failed to address the dangerous condition.

SAN DIEGO — A fourteen-year-old boy and his family are preparing to sue the city of San Diego after he was ejected from his bike from an uprooted portion of sidewalk along Mission Gorge Road and into an exposed metal bolt fastened to the adjacent guardrail. The bolt ripped through the boy's flesh, causing serious injuries to his leg. 

According to documents obtained by CBS 8, the city had known about the sidewalk and the exposed bolt for at least five years prior to the accident but failed to address the dangerous condition. 

In fact, months after the traumatic injury, the city has still ignored the dangerous defect, leaving pedestrians like Jacob Gibb at risk of serious injury.

"My life is all about sports so I was stressing out," said Gibb.

The Sidewalk

In July 2017, a resident notified the city about an uprooted portion of the sidewalk along a busy portion of Mission Gorge Road where vehicles traveled at high speeds. 

Roots underneath the sidewalk had raised the slab several inches into a makeshift launch ramp. Directly next to the uprooted sidewalk sits a wooden guardrail to prevent high-speeding vehicles from running into pedestrians. The guardrail is fastened together with 4-5 inch metal bolts that protrude several inches on the sidewalk side.

Credit: KFMB
Raised sidewalk on Mission Gorge Road
Credit: KFMB
Exposed bolt next to raised sidewalk

"Roots tearing [sidewalk] up and very dangerous," read one resident's complaint obtained by CBS 8.

One of two others that were sent in the following years added, "...[sidewalk] is unsafe to walk; it also has a bolt sticking out of the wood holding the guardrail."

However, in the five years since the first message, the city failed to take notice of the dangerous condition. As of December 28, 2022, the sidewalk remains unfixed.

The Accident

In August 2022, five years after the city first received notice, 14-year-old Jacob Gibb was riding his bike home from school. Gibb hit the raised sidewalk and it launched him into the guardrail, the metal bolt tearing open his right leg, and ripping out handfuls of flesh.

Credit: KFMB
Medical photo taken after surgeries

Gibb's mother says it frustrates her, even more, knowing that the city was aware of the dangerous sidewalk and the exposed metal bolt and left it for someone to be seriously injured. 

Jacob's dad, Jeff Miller says, "He called me screaming on the phone, "I crashed my bike and I hurt my leg and its super bad!" And all I remember is getting in my truck and racing over there. I had PTSD from it for a while. I couldn't close my eyes. I would just see that [injury]."

Jacob, an avid baseball fan and star player at San Carlos Little League says the injury forced him to be sidelined for a season and could have long-lasting impacts. However, Jacob and his doctors are hopeful he'll be well enough to play again soon.

Attorney Jeremiah Lowe represents the family in a newly filed legal claim that CBS 8 obtained through a Public Records Request.

Lowe tells CBS 8: "It's a shame that it takes somebody getting seriously hurt like this to take action. And even after all of this, they still haven't taken action."

The Infrastructure Backlog

The legal action comes as the city continues to try and address the billion-plus dollar infrastructure backlog. 

As the city focuses on repairing roads and damaged sidewalks, taxpayers have been shelling out millions in legal settlements and court judgments over broken sidewalks and pock-marked streets.

Those payouts include a $4.5 million that a jury awarded a Pacific Beach man in August 2022 for injuries he suffered after tripping over a raised portion of the sidewalk. 

Other recent payouts also include a $1.4 million settlement to a man who fell from his bike in Spanish Landing near downtown as well several other payouts over defective sidewalks and streets. 

Gibb's attorney Lowe says the city should have acted and needs to act before someone else is injured. 

"He's fighting to get better every day," said Lowe. "He's been through a lot. He's a superstar athlete, a prospect-type athlete, and he didn't deserve to go through this."

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