Fontana, Calif.: “Karen Medina, a student at A.B. Miller High School, was killed on Cypress Avenue in December 2001 when a car driven by a 15-year-old unlicensed driver veered out of control.” So who’s 75 percent to blame for her death? Why, the taxpayers of Fontana, because the city hadn’t built sidewalks on the thoroughfare in question — or so said a jury which awarded her parents $37.5 million. (Lance Pugmire, “Death of Girl May Cost Fontana Millions”, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 22; “Jury Blames City For Teen’s Death On Busy Road”, NBC4.tv, Sept. 22).
Now, around the country, it’s common for towns to refrain from building sidewalks alongside many or most of their roads, whether for aesthetic reasons, to reflect residents’ wishes, or simply because other ways of spending town funds seem more pressing. Fontana, known as a blue-collar community, planned to build sidewalks along Cypress Avenue at some point but was waiting for state grant money to come through. It may now have less wherewithal with which to pursue similar projects in the future. A footnote: although lawyers made much of the theme that the victim when hit was walking home from school, the actual accident occurred in a residential neighborhood which would appear not to have been especially close to the school (“less than a mile”).