San Diego paying out $1.5 million to pedestrian for head injuries suffered in 2017 La Jolla crash

Gavel and law books

Lawsuit calls the intersection of La Jolla Shores Drive and Downwind Way a dangerous ‘concealed trap.’


The city of San Diego is paying out $1.5 million to a pedestrian who suffered major head injuries in 2017 when struck by a car at a La Jolla intersection characterized in a lawsuit as highly dangerous.

Ruben Abagyan, 64, used phrases including “concealed trap” and “illusion and perception of safety” when describing La Jolla Shores Drive at Downwind Way in the lawsuit he filed against the city after he was injured.

Intersection of La Jolla Shores Drive and Downwind Way in La Jolla
A pedestrian sued the city of San Diego over serious head injuries he suffered in 2017 when struck by a car at the intersection of La Jolla Shores Drive and Downwind Way in La Jolla.
(Bing Maps / La Jolla Light)

The 2018 suit says the intersection, near UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, is dangerous because of vision obstruction, a lack of needed warning signals and a lack of pavement markings to alert drivers to pedestrians.

Abagyan was hit in evening rush-hour traffic while walking east in a crosswalk. He was struck by a 2013 Chevrolet Volt traveling west on Downwind before turning left onto La Jolla Shores Drive.

The lawsuit says the design of the intersection is faulty because the driver of the Volt had to wait a relatively long time for traffic to clear enough for his turn, prompting him to move quickly into the intersection despite Abagyan’s presence.

Abagyan was hit so hard that he needed intensive care for eight days with major head trauma, a skull fracture, traumatic brain injury and brain bleed, court documents say.

The size of the city’s payout to Abagyan, who lived in La Jolla at the time of the crash, was based on his inability to return to work.

His wife, Margarita, will share in the payout. She was a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit because she lost the companionship of her husband.

The City Council voted unanimously July 27 to approve the payout. The council previously approved it in a closed session June 29.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor had scheduled a jury trial for this spring but recently approved the settlement.

The lawsuit argues that city officials are responsible for the crash because the city created the intersection, performed maintenance on it and monitored safety there. The suit says city officials should have been aware of the danger.

La Jolla Shores Drive has drawn a lot of local attention lately because of crashes that occurred on it.

On June 13, two children and their mother suffered minor injuries when they were hit by an SUV at the intersection of La Jolla Shores Drive and Vallecitos. The La Jolla Shores Association voted a month later to ask that the city move forward with new crosswalk striping and pedestrian beacons at the intersection, along with a formal study of placing a roundabout there.

Resident Susan Wiczynski, a member of a committee exploring potential solutions to traffic dangers and congestion in The Shores, said the June 13 crash was the fourth she could recall in 21 months along La Jolla Shores Drive in the area near the beach.

Then on July 13, a car smashed into a wall surrounding University Lutheran Church on La Jolla Shores Drive near La Jolla Farms Road. No injuries were reported.

— La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.