Foot-wide Pothole Injures Cyclist, Possibly Ending Drumming Career

Senior Associate Seth Rosenberg obtained a $145,000 settlement from the City of Berkeley and Comcast late last year for client V. Carrillo (not the client’s real name), who suffered a severely broken hand (requiring surgery) in 2006 from a bicycle incident in Berkeley, Calif.

Carrillo, then a student at the University of California, Berkeley, was riding his bicycle with his girlfriend at night when he rode into an unseen, deep pothole filled with water on University Avenue. Upon riding into the pothole, he was ejected. His left arm and hand felt numb, and he could not move his fingers. Carrillo removed the gloves he had on and noticed that his left pinky finger was bent abnormally to the side and the knuckle of his ring finger was severely indented.

When Carrillo got up to inspect what caused the fall, he looked closely at a pothole covered with water and could discern that it was approximately one square foot in size and six inches deep. The rainwater that had come down from earlier that evening filled the pothole and the darkness obscured its presence on the road.

It was later determined that Carrillo broke multiple bones in his hand that required a surgeon to keep the bones together with pins. The pins remain in Carrillo’s hand to this day and will remain there for the rest of his life. Due to this injury, Carrillo’s daily life was and continues to be impacted. For months, Carrillo experienced tightness and pain in his hand and difficulty making a fist. Carrillo still experiences intermittent pain in his hand with exertion.

Due to these injuries, Carrillo’s life as a law student – which requires extensive typing – was remarkably painful and difficult. Further, Carrillo’s main passion, drumming, was and is more difficult.

Also, Carrillo had particular difficulty getting around due to his injuries, as he relied primarily on his bicycle as daily source of transportation. Even after the cast was removed and he underwent physical therapy, he alleged having difficulty making a fist and holding onto the safety grip of the handle bars on his bike.

On behalf of Carrillo, Rosenberg asserted that the City of Berkeley was responsible for Carrillo’s injuries because the pothole was wider and deeper than the City of Berkeley allows under its own policies and procedures, and the City of Berkeley failed to adequately check for potholes.

Indeed, the head of the City of Berkeley’s “pot hole crew” testified that Berkeley’s roads are inspected at least a dozen times a year for potholes, but admitted that the City’s internal documents showed that the stretch of road at issue had not been inspected for at least a year. Moreover, the City of Berkeley could not even say who fixed the pothole.

Rosenberg also asserted that Comcast was liable for negligently doing trench work in the area that contributed to the pothole’s formation.

Rosenberg and Minami Tamaki are proud to help Carrillo, a wonderful young man who will definitely go on to do great things despite this setback.

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