Former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock and his wife are suing the city over a 2015 fall she took on a damaged sidewalk that allegedly ruptured her silicone breast implants and eventually required replacement surgery.
While the Hedgecocks aren’t seeking a specific amount, the lawsuit they filed in October said the damages suffered “are well in excess of $25,000.”
The suit contends the city behaved with negligence and carelessness by not repairing a 2.5-inch concrete lip in a public sidewalk caused by a tree. The incident took place in Pacific Beach.
A spokesman for City Atty. Mara Elliott said Wednesday that the city expected the case to go to trial later this year. Lawyers in the case are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss potential trial dates.
Trials are unusual in sidewalk cases, which the city typically has settled out of court in recent years.
According to the lawsuit, Cynthia Hedgecock suffered “serious personal injuries” when she tripped over the raised portion of sidewalk, “flew forward and came crashing to the ground” on July 31, 2015.
Two weeks later, she went to a local medical clinic “with persistent chest pain and breast deformities” and learned in September 2015 that both of her silicone implants had ruptured and that silicone had been leaking into her bloodstream, the suit says.
That November, she had both implants removed and replaced in what the suit described as “a grueling procedure.” She then needed weeks to recover, during which she used pain medication and sleeping aids and required her husband's constant assistance, according to the suit, which was first reported by the San Diego Reader.
Roger Hedgecock is a co-plaintiff because he suffered “the loss of support, service, love, companionship, society, affection, relations and solace from his wife.”
According to the suit, he had to stay at home and help his wife every day with her recovery, prompting him to seek compensation for his “own loss of income and the loss of consortium with his wife.”
Damaged city sidewalks have been a controversial topic this spring, with San Diego paying nearly $5 million to a bicyclist launched 28 feet by a raised sidewalk.
After the City Council approved that settlement on March 7, Councilman David Alvarez renewed his push for a new policy shifting the responsibility of repairing sidewalks almost entirely to the city.
The existing policy, which makes adjacent property owners responsible for repairs in all but a small number of circumstances, has resulted in too many damaged sidewalks and large injury payouts, Alvarez said.
Under existing policy, the city is essentially responsible only when sidewalks are damaged by utility work, heat expansion or changes in grade. Alvarez would shift the policy to say that the city is responsible unless it is determined that the damage was caused by the adjacent property owner or a third party.
The city has agreed to three other settlements of sidewalk cases in the last two years for $75,000, $98,000 and $235,000.
Garrick writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune