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San Diego is paying out $1.1 million to two men who suffered serious injuries four years ago when they were knocked into a deep trench by a city water hose that was dragged along Moreno Boulevard by a street sweeping vehicle.

The two men, Raul Ceballos and Israel Mendoza, claim in separate lawsuits that their injuries have diminished their long-term earning capacity. The settlement also will cover medical costs and attorney’s fees for Ceballos and Mendoza.

The City Council unanimously approved the settlement agreement in a session closed to the public in November. The council is scheduled to give the settlement a final approval Tuesday in open session.

The incident that led to the injuries took place just after midnight on Feb. 16, 2018. City Utilities Department workers had laid a hose across all lanes of Morena Boulevard in the 4500 block to discharge liquid and debris into Rose Creek.

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The hose got entangled with a street sweeping vehicle that dragged the hose until it knocked Ceballos and Mendoza into a deep trench at the site of an excavation and construction project being handled by the city and private contractors.

The lawsuits claim city workers acted negligently by stretching the hose across an active street. They claim there was a “foreseeable risk of harm” and that city workers had an obligation to keep the road free of hazards.

City workers should have known street sweepers have “low hanging equipment that frequently ensnares or strikes objects in the roadway,” according to court documents.

The lawsuits say Ceballos and Mendoza suffered “serious and permanent” injuries, but the lawsuits don’t disclose any further details. They also claim the men suffered emotional distress.

The two lawsuits, which were filed in 2018 and 2019, were consolidated in 2020. A trial had been scheduled to begin in November, but a tentative settlement was reached in September.

The latest settlement comes in the wake of a 2020 city audit that found San Diego could significantly reduce the nearly $25 million a year it spends on lawsuit payouts if it invests in better employee training and deeper analyses of risks.

The audit found that San Diego spent $220 million total over nine fiscal years, from 2010 to 2018, handling about 20,000 claims and lawsuits filed during that time.

Auditors also recommended proactive measures like fixing damaged sidewalks and concrete in key areas and revamping dangerous intersections.

The settlement money for the Morena Boulevard injuries won’t come from the usual source, the city’s public liability fund. Instead it will come from the city’s water fund because the Public Utilities employees were working in that capacity.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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