In 2004, truck driver Simon Loza Mejia violated company regulations, and took his eight-year-old Diana Yuleidy Loza-Jimenez along on a long-haul trip from Oregon to Bakersfield. That November 27, he was pulling away in the truck, but apparently didn’t bother to check where his daughter was, and ran over her. This was, argued her attorneys, the fault of her father’s employer—and a Sacramento County judge agreed with the argument that it was legally irrelevant that her father was the one who ran her over. Unsurprisingly, a jury ignorant of the facts awarded Diana, whose lower body was crushed, a jackpot verdict of $24.3 million, over $20 million of which was noneconomic damages. (Andy Furillo, “Sacramento jury awards record $24.3 million to girl run over by dad’s truck”, Sacramento Bee, Mar. 9 (h/t @BobDorigoJones)).
In recent decades, American state and local highway officials have built wide streets and roads designed primarily to accommodate high-speed automobile traffic. However, such high-speed streets are more dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists than streets with slower traffic, and thus fail to adequately accommodate nondrivers. Government officials design streets for high-speed traffic partially because of their fear of tort liability. An influential street engineering manual, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Green Book, has generally favored the construction of such high-speed streets, and transportation planners fear that if they fail to follow the Green Book’s recommendations, they are more likely to be held negligent if a speeding driver is injured on a street designed for relatively slow traffic.
Changes in the Green Book may ameliorate such design considerations in the future.