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Sonoma sidewalk collision headed to trial

A lawsuit filed by a Sonoma woman who was seriously injured in 2009 when hit by a 13-year-old boy who was riding his bicycle on a sidewalk appears headed for trial.

Sonoma artist Wendy Mitchell was talking to the owner of a frame shop on Broadway when Brett Bonfigli ran into her on his bicycle.

Mitchell, who was 72 at the time, suffered a brain injury, facial fractures and other injuries as a result of the Nov. 28, 2009, collision, according to her lawsuit.

Mitchell sued the boy, his parents and the city of Sonoma seeking compensation for her loss of wages, medical expenses and other costs. She declined comment this week, as did her attorney.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Mark Tansil set a trial date for Sept. 7 after he denied the city's bid to have the case dismissed.

Mitchell's suit claims the boy was negligent for operating the bicycle in an unsafe manner, and that his parents, Dean and Heidi Bonfigli, failed "to exercise proper control or to give appropriate warnings to prevent this conduct."

The Bonfiglis declined comment this week.

Mitchell's suit also claims the city of Sonoma was negligent as a result of an ordinance that allows bikes to be ridden on sidewalks "without limiting their speeds," and for allowing vegetation to be grown near the sidewalk that obscured views for cyclists and pedestrians.

The city argued that it isn't liable for injuries caused by the adoption of ordinances, which in this case prohibit bicycles from being operated on sidewalks at such speeds or in such manner "as evidences willful, wanton or reckless disregard of the safety of other pedestrians in the vicinity."

Adrienne Moran, an attorney for the city, declined comment this week.

The city counter-sued Scott Sherman, who owns The Framery on Broadway, claiming that Sherman should bear any potential liability because he planted three cypress trees near the sidewalk, allegedly without obtaining permits for the work.

Sherman declined comment.

The city also argued that Broadway, which is Highway 12, is in the right of way for Caltrans and therefore the state's responsibility.

Tansil, however, stated in his ruling denying the city's bid to halt the case that the city had not shown that Mitchell would be unable to convince a jury the city breached its maintenance responsibilities.

The judge also wrote that the city is potentially liable whether or not the sidewalk is state property.

The Sonoma City Council was scheduled to discuss the case tonight in closed session.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.

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