Due to the recent storms in March 2023, Caltrans shut down US-101 in Gilroy and I-580 in Oakland due to flooding. Water is not easily seen on a roadway. Additionally, very little water can cause tires to lose traction. As a result, drivers may unexpectedly encounter flooding and lose control of their vehicle.
Because flooding can create a dangerous condition, Caltrans must design its roads with proper drainage in mind, must maintain its drains and drainage systems to prevent flooding, must warn drivers if its roads are flooded, and must close roads, including freeways, when the flooding is severe.
The attorneys at Abramson Smith Waldsmith, LLP have represented many clients against Caltrans for dangerous conditions on its roadways, including cases involving flooding. In one recent case, a college student’s car became disabled when he encountered an extremely large, 2-foot deep puddle on I-880 in Oakland due to clogged drains. When he got out of his car to check on the damage to his car, another vehicle that lost control in the same flooding, struck the young man and caused his death. Caltrans knew that flooding at this location occurred every time it rains and identified it as a “hot spot” for flooding but failed to keep the drains in this location clear and free of debris. CHP reported this flooding to Caltrans but the Caltrans dispatcher left her post for an hour to eat at McDonalds and did not act on the report of flooding until it was too late. Caltrans settled the case for $2 million.
Caltrans has a responsibility to keep its roads safe and our firm will continue to fight for those who are harmed by the failure of Caltrans to do its job.