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Tentative ruling in 2011 crosswalk death absolves Santa Rosa of liability

  • Armando Jimenez, 13, and his sister, Ashley Jimenez, 7, stop to look at the memorial site for 4-year-old Christopher "Buddy" Rowe, while Armando walks Ashley home from Lincoln Elementary School, in Santa Rosa, on Tuesday, August 23, 2011. Rowe was struck by a vehicle while crossing West Ninth Street, at Rockwell Place, on Thursday, August 18, and died Friday.

In a tentative ruling this week, a Sonoma County judge dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city of Santa Rosa in the case of a 4-year-old boy struck and killed by a motorist in a crosswalk.

Judge Elliot Lee Daum found that the city didn't allow dangerous conditions to exist that caused the death in the West Ninth Street crossing.

"Despite this terrible tragedy and loss of a child's life ... the condition of the accident location does not constitute public property that is dangerous," Daum said.

Following Tuesday's ruling, both sides appeared in court to argue the case. The judge took the matter under submission and is expected to issue a final decision, a lawyer in the case said.

Christopher "Buddy" Rowe was struck and killed in 2011 in a marked crossing on West Ninth Street near Rockwell Place as he walked with his mother and two sisters on the way to Jacobs Park.

The driver, Marcos Lopez-Garcia, 22, of Santa Rosa, fled but was arrested later that day. The pizza restaurant worker received a four-year state prison sentence for vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a crash.

Rowe's family sued the city last year, claiming the crosswalk was unsafe.

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