Man Injured by Chunk of Pier Sues : Paralyzed Victim Names Manhattan Beach, County, State

Times Staff Writer

A man who was paralyzed when a 150-pound chunk of concrete fell from the Manhattan Beach pier and struck him as he was preparing to jog on the beach last summer has filed a civil lawsuit against the city, the county and the state.

George Benda, 46, of Redondo Beach, charged in court papers that all three governments should have known that the pier was in bad shape.

The court papers, which were filed in Torrance Superior Court last month and served on city, state and county officials the first week of January, charged that the pier "was in a dilapidated condition, that pieces were and had been falling off the pier for some time prior to the accident . . . and that said pier was in a general condition of disrepair, creating a dangerous and defective condition."

Responsibility Denied

Benda's suit did not set a specific amount for the monetary damages requested, but he had earlier unsuccessfully submitted claims seeking $20 million from Manhattan Beach, the county and the state.

Manhattan Beach City Atty. Carl Newton said the city contended that it was not responsible for the pier because "we do not own, control or maintain the pier, and have no responsibility relative to it." He said the pier is owned by the state and leased to Los Angeles County.

The court papers said that last Aug. 23 Benda was standing directly below the Manhattan Beach pier doing stretching exercises to warm up before jogging when a large concrete and steel portion of the pier broke off and fell on him.

Benda's attorney, Philip Daigneault, said Benda's spinal column was irreparably damaged, leaving him a paraplegic.

Daigneault said Benda, who was an electrical contractor, "was a very athletic man. . . . He belonged to three different health clubs, he rode his bike to health clubs, he jogged on the beach, he was one of those type of people."

The lawyer said the chunk of concrete that struck Benda was about two feet long and one foot wide and weighed 150 pounds.

Daigneault contended that despite Newton's claim that the city was not responsible for the pier, all three agencies have some liability for the accident. He said that although the city deeded the pier to the state in May, 1957, it is supposed to provide police protection for at least part of the structure.

Safety Measures

The lawyer also said that since the accident, officials have strung a net along the underside of the pier to catch any more concrete that might fall, and have built a barricade to keep people from walking or running under the structure.

He said that pieces of the pier had been breaking off for "years, not months," and the structure should have been repaired before the accident.

Joining Benda as a plaintiff in the suit was his fiance, Janet Meisenbach, who is seeking damages for the loss of Benda's companionship.

Senior Assistant County Counsel Gerald Crump said he had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it. State Assistant Atty. Gen. Marvin Goldsmith also said that he had not seen the papers, but that the agreement under which the county operates most of the state beaches in Los Angeles County provides that the county will handle any lawsuits arising from that operation.

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