California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

1120. Failure to Provide Traffic Control Signals (Gov. Code, § 830.4)

You may not find that [name of defendant]’s property was in a dangerous condition just because it did not provide a [insert device or marking]. However, you may consider the lack of a [insert device or marking], along with other circumstances shown by the evidence, in determining whether [name of defendant]’s property was dangerous.

New September 2003

Sources and Authority

  • Government Code section 830.4 provides: “A condition is not a dangerous condition within the meaning of this chapter merely because of the failure to provide regulatory traffic control signals, stop signs, yield right-of-way signs, or speed restriction signs, as described by the Vehicle Code, or distinctive roadway markings as described in Section 21460 of the Vehicle Code.”
  • “ ‘[T]he statutory scheme precludes a plaintiff from imposing liability on a public entity for creating a dangerous condition merely because it did not install the described traffic control devices.’ In short, ‘[t]he lack of a traffic signal at the intersection does not constitute proof of a dangerous condition.’ ” (Mixon v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (2012) 207 Cal.App.4th 124, 135 [142 Cal.Rptr.3d 633], internal citation omitted.)
  • “Cases interpreting this statute have held that it provides a shield against liability only in those situations where the alleged dangerous condition exists solely as a result of the public entity’s failure to provide a regulatory traffic device or street marking. If a traffic intersection is dangerous for reasons other than the failure to provide regulatory signals or street markings, the statute provides no immunity.” (Washington v. City and County of San Francisco (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d 1531, 1534–1535 [269 Cal.Rptr. 58].)
  • “A public entity does not create a dangerous condition on its property ‘merely because of the failure to provide regulatory traffic control signals, stop signs, yield right-of-way signs, or speed restriction signs . . . .’ (§ 830.4.) If, on the other hand, the government installs traffic signals and invites the public to justifiably rely on them, liability will attach if the signals malfunction, confusing or misleading motorists, and causing an accident to occur. The reasoning behind this rule is that the government creates a dangerous condition and a trap when it operates traffic signals that, for example, direct motorists to ‘go’ in all four directions of an intersection simultaneously, with predictable results.” (Chowdhury v. City of Los Angeles (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 1187, 1194–1195 [45 Cal.Rptr.2d 657], internal citations omitted.)
  • “If the government turns off traffic signals entirely to avoid confusion, liability does not attach. ‘When the [traffic] lights were turned off, their defective condition could no longer mislead or misdirect the injured party.’ The same result obtains whether the traffic signals are extinguished by design or by accident.” (Chowdhury, supra, 38 Cal.App.4th at p. 1195, internal citations omitted.)
  • “Although section 830.4 . . . provides that a condition of public property is not a dangerous one merely because of the failure to provide regulatory traffic control signals, the absence of such signals for the protection of pedestrians must be taken into consideration, together with other factors. . . . [T]he lack of crosswalk markings, better illumination and warning signs became important factors in the case when the [pedestrian] subway itself was in a dangerous condition.” (Gardner v. City of San Jose (1967) 248 Cal.App.2d 798, 803 [57 Cal.Rptr. 176].)
  • “In short, a dangerous condition proven to exist, for reasons other than or in addition to the mere failure to provide the controls or markings described in section 830.4, may constitute a proximate cause of injury without regard to whether such condition also constitutes a ‘trap,’ as described by section 830.8, to one using the public improvement with due care because of the failure to post signs different from those dealt with by section 830.4 warning of that dangerous condition.” (Washington, supra, 219 Cal.App.3d at p. 1537.)

Secondary Sources

5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, § 264

2 California Government Tort Liability Practice (Cont.Ed.Bar 4th ed.) § 12.75

5 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 61, Particular Liabilities and Immunities of Public Entities and Public Employees, § 61.03[4] (Matthew Bender)

40 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 464, Public Entities and Offıcers: California Torts Claim Act, § 464.85 (Matthew Bender)

19A California Points and Authorities, Ch. 196, Public Entities, §§ 196.12, 196.210 (Matthew Bender)