San Diego paying $2.1 million to bicyclist seriously injured when he hit a pothole in La Jolla

Torrey Pines Road near Amalfi Street in La Jolla
Torrey Pines Road near Amalfi Street in La Jolla, pictured last year during an SDG&E trenching project, is where Jonathan Sammartino hit a pothole in 2015 and was thrown from his bicycle.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

San Diego is paying $2.1 million to a bicyclist who suffered severe head injuries on Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla.

Jonathan Sammartino suffered facial fractures, a brain bleed and a seizure when he hit a pothole while riding his bike on Torrey Pines Road near Amalfi Street in March 2015.

In a lawsuit against the city, he states he was thrown over the handlebars when he hit a pothole filled with asphalt debris that police later measured at 4 feet by 2½ feet.

The suit says Sammartino slid 10 to 15 feet on the ground and spent five days in an intensive care unit after the crash, which was witnessed by his wife, Jessica Thierman, and a friend.

The $2.1 million payout compensates the couple for lost earnings by Sammartino, who missed five months of work and may have missed out on other employment opportunities during that time.

The case is one of seven lawsuits settled recently stemming from incidents around the city, totaling nearly $5 million in payouts.

One of the other settlements is for $1 million total to two women hit by a police patrol vehicle downtown. Four cover flood damage caused by water main breaks and other problems with the city’s water and sewer systems, and the seventh is for a woman’s injuries suffered in a collision with a police vehicle in Mount Hope.

The City Council approved all the payouts March 7 in open session.

The settlements come in the wake of a 2020 city audit that said 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.

San Diego could shrink lawsuit payouts with better risk analysis, worker training, report said

The audit determined 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 such as fixing damaged sidewalks and concrete in key areas and revamping dangerous intersections. ◆