March 21, 2015, was a perfect day for a bike ride in La Jolla…until cyclist Jonathan Sammartino struck a two-and-a-half-foot by four-foot pothole on Torrey Pines Road and was thrown from his bike head-first onto the concrete.
While unconscious from the fall, Sammartino had a seizure and was transported to Scripps Memorial Hospital, where doctors discovered that his brain was bleeding from the impact. He stayed in the intensive care unit for five days before being admitted to an in-patient rehabilitation facility.
Nearly one year after the fall, Sammartino is suing the City of San Diego for neglecting public property.
Sammartino's attorneys claim that Sammartino "exercised due care" by riding in the bicycle lane and was riding "below the posted speed limit and was following all other safety precautions including using bicycle safety equipment and wearable protection, including a helmet."
Yet, while Sammartino used caution during his ride, it was the city, says the lawsuit, that failed to protect the public.
According to the complaint, the "pothole is visible on images on the Internet, including satellite images and from street-view images taken months before the accident." Its visibility and the sheer size leads Sammartino's attorneys to believe that the city was most likely aware of the pothole for some time before the accident.
"The City of San Diego likely had actual notice of the condition, such as by observation or citizen complaints, but at very least had constructive notice of the dangerous condition sufficient in time to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition....
"As a direct and proximate result of the injuries, [Sammartino] has been unable to perform the duties of a husband in that [he] can no longer assist in the same ways that he used to be able to with housework, cooking, have sexual intercourse, participate in family, recreational, or social activities with [his wife], or contribute to the household income," reads the complaint.
"Due to the nature of the injuries...and the severe physical and psychological strains they cause him, [Sammartino] is no longer able to provide [his wife] with love, companionship, affection, society, moral support, and solace."
The lawsuit is one of many filed in recent years by cyclists and pedestrians who have allegedly been injured as a result of San Diego's crumbling infrastructure. In 2014, as reported by the Reader, a cyclist sued the city after running into a crumbling sidewalk during a ride in Carmel Valley. The case is ongoing. In June 2014, the city filed a counter-claim against a construction company for construction defects.
In another lawsuit filed in 2013, a cyclist sued the city for failing to maintain the streets and create bike lanes after she was hit by a car near Pacific Beach. In April 2015, the city council settled the case out of court for $225,000 for Martinez.
A hearing in San Diego Superior Court is scheduled for September 30, 2016.