Appeal Court Finds Hotel Del Not Liable in Pedestrian Death

Share via

The Hotel del Coronado is not liable for a 1987 accident in which a pedestrian leaving the hotel was killed while walking in a marked crosswalk next to the historic structure, a state appellate court in San Diego ruled Monday.

Crosswalks are the state’s business, not a hotel’s, even if a hotel’s patrons use them and even if the hotel gains a benefit from them, the 4th District Court of Appeal said in a unanimous opinion.

Harry Seaber was killed Feb. 14, 1987, while crossing Orange Avenue in a crosswalk south of the entrance to the hotel.


About 13 years before, hotel officials had asked Caltrans to provide a painted crosswalk. The state obliged, putting it near a hotel entrance but just below the crest of a hill and near a slight turn in the road. Because of the slope of the road, the view of motorists traveling south toward the crosswalk was obstructed.

Seaber was killed while using the crosswalk to reach his car, which he had parked in a lot across Orange Avenue while he visited the hotel. His wife and three children sued the state, the hotel, the driver of the car and others for wrongful death.

Though the hotel had asked the state for a crosswalk, that was not enough to pin it with liability, Judge Donald R. Work said. To decide otherwise, he said, would “penalize any member of the public who petitions the government to take action.”

The family’s attorney, John D. Rowell of Los Angeles, could not be reached Monday for comment. But an attorney for the hotel, Roger A. Geddes, said the family had agreed to an out-of-court settlement of its claims against the state, adding that the state has since removed the crosswalk.

“Obviously, I think this is a correct ruling,” Geddes said Monday. “We have no control over Orange Avenue.”

Judges Patricia Benke and Jesus Rodriguez joined in the opinion. Rodriguez, a San Diego Superior Court judge, was sitting on the case under a routine program that gives trial court judges experience deciding appeals.