Pacific Bell v. City of San Diego

96 Cal. Rptr. 2d 897, 81 Cal. App. 4th 596 (2000)

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Pacific Bell v. City of San Diego

California Court of Appeal
96 Cal. Rptr. 2d 897, 81 Cal. App. 4th 596 (2000)

Facts

The city of San Diego (the city) (defendant) had an aging water-delivery system primarily composed of corroded cast-iron pipes. Instead of attempting to replace, maintain, or repair the pipes, the city’s approach was to wait for a cast-iron pipe to break or a change in water service before replacing the pipe. Over a period of 10 years, the city council denied 28 requests for a water-rate increase to replace the cast-iron pipes, instead choosing its gradual-replacement approach to keep water costs low. In April 1997, a fire hydrant near a facility owned by Pacific Bell (plaintiff) was hit by a car, and the pipes leading to the hydrant burst because of their corrosion. The burst pipes caused $170,000 in water damage to Pacific Bell. Pacific Bell sued the city. The city’s defense for most of Pacific Bell’s claims rested on its fire-hydrant immunity under the California Tort Claims Act. Pacific Bell claimed the city was strictly liable under inverse condemnation, and the city argued that Pacific Bell failed to establish that the city’s maintenance program for its water system was unreasonable. The court agreed with the city. Pacific Bell appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McDonald, J.)

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