The City has approved a $48,000 settlement in a slip-and-fall lawsuit to a woman who was badly hurt when she fell on Wilshire Boulevard near 18th Street two years ago.
Olivia Casillas was leaving a UCLA Optometry office when she tripped in March of 2015, according to the civil complaint filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court. Casillas’ attorney, Michael Cholodenko, said the sidewalk had a defect resulting in a height differential of about two inches between two panels of concrete. In fact, the piece of sidewalk was on a list of 3,000 sidewalks in Santa Monica in need of repair that the City hadn’t yet gotten around to fixing, according to Cholodenko.
“Obviously, it was dangerous enough that it was earmarked for repair,” Cholodenko said.
Casillas dislocated her shoulder, which later required surgery. Attorneys for the City initially argued that Casillas was partially at fault for falling. The City Attorney’s office did not respond to the Daily Press’s request for comment.
“In this case, Olivia had just come from an eye doctor and had just had some eye drops but the physician had a record that she just taken a vision test and could see just fine,” Cholodenko said, who said the settlement saved both the City and his client money in attorney’s fees if the case had gone to trial.
To win a slip-and-fall lawsuit, the victim must be able to prove that the property owner knew or should have known the condition was dangerous. An investigation into the sidewalk’s history showed an inspector in August of 2014 reported the height differential on that portion of sidewalk to be less than an inch.
“We suspect that the last inspection prior to the incident was not done properly,” Cholodenko said.
Cholodenko is a Beverly Hills attorney who specializes in premises liability, including falls on broken or cracked sidewalks. He says it can be difficult to pursue slip-and-fall lawsuits against government entities, especially the City by the Sea.
“First of all, the City of Santa Monica is not an easy target. They defend claims, they investigate cases and they only pay claims that are meritorious. They’ve got really good city attorneys.”
The case was mediated and on Tuesday the City Council unanimously approved the settlement to Casillas.
“The bottom line here is, if people think they can just take a dive on a sidewalk and make money that’s not the case,” Cholodenko said.