Vandalism of a Stop Sign Causing Car Accident Liability
The question is, can the repeated vandalism of a stop sign be considered a "problematic condition" for purposes of section 101.060(a)(2).
The Texas Supreme Court held in Lorig v. City of Mission, 629 S.W.2d 699, 701 (Tex. 1982), that a stop sign's obstruction from view by trees or branches is such a "condition."
The court also held that a traffic light altered by the city to show a red arrow instead of a red light constituted a "condition." Sparkman v. Maxwell, 519 S.W.2d 852, 857-58 (Tex. 1975).
The courts of appeal have held that a light that simultaneously showed green to drivers traveling in different directions could be such a condition, State v. Norris, 550 S.W.2d 386, 390 (Tex. Civ. App.--Corpus Christi 1977, writ ref'd n.r.e.), and even a dangerous intersection which did not have an appropriate traffic signal at a dangerous intersection could be considered such a condition. Zambory v. City of Dallas, 838 S.W.2d 580, 582 (Tex. App.--Dallas 1992, writ denied).
The Texas Supreme Court has held that the term "refers to either an intentional or an inadvertent state of being." Sparkman v. Maxwell, 519 S.W.2d 852, 858 (Tex. 1975).
In Sparkman, the court held that where the city had notice of a problematic condition, as defined, it could be liable. Id.
The dictionary defines the term "condition" to mean "a particular mode or state of being of a thing." OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY 785 (1971).
When statutory words are not defined, they should be given their plain and common meaning. TEX. GOV'T CODE ANN. 311.011(a) (Vernon 1989); Monsanto Co. v. Cornerstones Mun. Util. Dist., 865 S.W.2d 937, 939 (Tex. 1993).
If we substitute that definition into the statutory language, the statute reads that it applies to situations involving "the particular mode or state of being of a traffic or road sign, signal, or warning device."
Thus, we hold that the condition of being the subject of repeated and extraordinarily frequent vandalism can be a condition for purposes of section 101.060(a)(2) liability. See also City of Baytown v. Peoples, 9 S.W.3d 391, 396-97 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1999, no pet.) (holding that exclusive method for determining tort claims act liability for malfunctioning traffic signal was under 101.060(a)(2)).