The cost of local government is increasing, and one of the many reasons is the dramatic growth in liability insurance premiums for municipalities. The insurance premium for the city of Pomona has risen from $74,725 to $328,000 for the same coverage in one year.
One reason for this is the extravagant judgments being awarded in our courts.
Recently, a young man in Newport Beach dove into an ocean sand bar off a city beach and suffered injuries which left him a quadriplegic. The jury awarded $6 million because the city was negligent in not posting a sign describing the danger.
In another case, a plaintiff is suing Hayward, Calif., for $2 million after wrecking his motorcycle on a slippery street. His blood alcohol level was .32 and he was driving 60 m.p.h. in a 30 m.p.h. zone.
Still another driver with a blood alcohol level of .17 was killed in Bakersfield when he ran his car through a dead-end street over a railroad embankment. His survivors are suing, claiming signs were not properly placed.
Last year cities in California paid $20.1 million in "deep pocket" judgments. That's up from $5.1 million paid in 1981-82. There are two California cities--Dixon and Paradise--that are . . . facing judgments greater than their annual budgets.
Because of these judgments, premiums have skyrocketed, deductibles are increasing from $100,000 to as much as $500,000 with new added exclusions.
These costs are only part of the story in that California cities report paying in excess of $15 million in legal fees over three years as well.
A bill is pending in the state Assembly which addresses this issue, but its chances are dim.
The best opportunity right now is for each concerned citizen to get involved and sign a petition to place on the June, 1986, ballot a measure called the "Fair Responsibility Act of 1986," which will limit cities to paying for their percentage portion of a judgment and no more. Petitions are available at City Hall in the risk manager's office and will also be available at the regular City Council meetings.
This relief to Pomona's general fund, as well as that of other cities, will be one way that each citizen in our community can do a small part in helping to resolve next year's budget problems.
Mark A. T. Nymeyer,