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IRVINE : Suit Accuses City of Wrongful Death

ORANGE COUNTY FOCUS

October 27, 1993|DAVAN MAHARAJ

The city failed to heed numerous warnings about unsafe conditions at a busy intersection used by children from three neighborhood schools, a former chairman of the city's Transportation Commission testified this week.

Franklin Lunding, who served as the commission's chairman in 1988, said on Monday that warnings about the dangers at Michelson Drive and Yale Avenue were made repeatedly to city officials long before a University High school student was killed at the intersection.

Lunding was testifying in Orange County Superior Court in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city by Betty Leidal, whose 14-year-old son, David, was fatally struck as he rode his bicycle in the crosswalk on his way to school in September, 1988.

Pejman B. Alaghamandan, who was driving a compact car on his way to school, admitted running a four-way stop before plowing into Leidal, an honors student at University High. Alaghamandan served a 30-day jail sentence in 1989 after pleading guilty to misdemeanor manslaughter.

The city has denied responsibility for the crash and allegations that road conditions at the intersection were unsafe.

In fact, city transportation officials reduced the road from four lanes to two to control speed of vehicles, according to Patrick Quinlivan, the city's lawyer.

But Betty Leidal has sued Alaghamandan and the city for civil damages, claiming that officials knew that vehicles routinely exceeded the 25 m.p.h. speed limit and frequently did not notice the stop sign at the intersection.

Lunding, who now practices law in Monterey, described Michelson and Yale "as the most dangerous intersection (in the city) and the one that we discussed the most."

"I told (city officials) that 'you are the experts. You come to us with solutions to the problems at Michelson and Yale. If you have to hire consultants, please do it.' "

But city staff insisted that the roadway was adequate to protect schoolchildren and bicycle riders, Lunding said.

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