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Ex Glendale City Manager Files $1M Claim Over Busted Sidewalk That Caused Wife's Death

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Sidewalk closed! (Photo by Gary Kavanagh via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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The former city manager of Glendale has filed a $1 million claim against his former employer claiming that a broken sidewalk that should have been properly maintained by the city lead directly to his wife's death in a wheelchair accident on March 16 of this year, according to the L.A. Times

On that day, James Starbird and his wife, Carolyn, were out for a walk in the 1200 block of Ethel Street in a northern Glendale neighborhood. Starbird was pushing his wife, who rode along in a wheelchair, when the chair hit a portion of broken sidewalk. When the front wheels made contact with the 1 1/4 inch bump, the chair pitched forward, throwing Carolyn Starbird forward onto the sidewalk where she hit her head. Her head injury caused a severe concussion, and she died shortly thereafter.

James Starbird, who was Glendale's city manager for 14 years until 2011, says that the city employees who walk throughout the area should have been aware that the sidewalk, and alerted the appropriate municipal authorities to fix it.

"There are meter maids, meter readers—a lot of people who work for the city who had to have seen this elevation change in time to protect against this sort of accident," said the Starbird family's attorney, Steven Glickman, to the Times. "You can't have city personnel ignoring these dangerous conditions, especially with disabled people in wheelchairs."

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Glendale's Public Works department explained to the Times that, once they are alerted of a broken sidewalk, they do their best to ensure it's repaired within one or two days. The challenge, though, is that this system relies on the busted sidewalks being reported to the city. Starbird's claim rests upon the idea that city employees are walking around, and should theoretically spot the broken sidewalks while on the job, though their job is something else.

Glendale City Attorney Mike Garcia declined to comment to the Times. The city has 45 days to respond to the claim, at which point Starbird will be able to file a lawsuit.

Los Angeles has had its own litany of sidewalk related lawsuits as well. Back in March, the city announced a $1.3 billion(!) spending plan to address the aging sidewalks.