Teen is killed walking to school, city blamed for dangerous condition. $60M. San Bernardino County.

Summary

Teenager crossing highway at controlled intersection is killed on his way to school.

The Case

  • Case Name: Stephen De La Cruz/Summer Johnson v. Town of Apple Valley
  • Court and Case Number: San Bernardino County Superior Court / CIVDS1619242
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, September 11, 2019
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, November 10, 2016
  • Type of Action: Dangerous Condition Public Property, Wrongful Death
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Janet M. Frangie
  • Plaintiffs:
    Stephen De La Cruz
    Summer Johnson
  • Defendants:
    Town of Apple Valley
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $60,000,000
  • Net Verdict or Award: $60,000,000
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    All against Apple Valley. The jury found that the intersection in question was in a dangerous condition at the time of the accident and that the Town of Apple Valley had sufficient notice of its dangerous condition, which was a substantial factor in causing Alex’s death.

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: Decedent Alex De La Cruz: comparative negligence/zero causation.
  • Economic Damages:

    N/A

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $10,000,000

    Future: $50,000,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 5 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 1/2 days.
  • Jury Polls: 11-1
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Expecting a motion for new trial.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Paoli & Purdy by William M. Paoli and Court B. Purdy, Newport Beach. (For Stephen De La Cruz.)

    Law Offices of Evan L. Ginsburg by Evan L. Ginsburg, Fullerton. (For Summer Johnson.)

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    McCormick, Mitchell & Rasmussen, APC by John P. McCormick and Konrad M. Rasmussen, San Diego.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Jon Landerville, accident reconstruction.

    Alan Bourgeois, traffic engineering, Mission Viejo.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Brad Miller, civil engineering.

    Richard Pedersen, civil engineering.

     

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    In the pre-dawn hours of March 16, 2016, a 14-year-old boy was hit by an SUV and killed in a marked crosswalk while he walked to Apple Valley High School. The intersection of Bear Valley Road and Navajo Road, where this accident took place, is located within the city limits of the Town of Apple Valley and is adjacent to the Apple Valley High School grounds. The intersection was controlled by four functioning traffic lights with pedestrian controls, and the decedent was crossing against the red pedestrian control.

    Bear Valley Road is a four-lane truck route which has a posted speed limit of 55 mph. 

     

     

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the Town of Apple Valley maintained a dangerous condition of the roadway and intersection that was contiguous to the Apple Valley High School grounds and failed to provide adequate lighting, required school warning signs, and a required speed reduction sign to alert motorists of a school zone ahead in violation of CVC section 22352(b)(2).

    That the standard “SCHOOL” signs had been removed pre-accident by the Town of Apple Valley, who never posted required signs reducing the speed limit to 25 mph when children were present going to and coming from the grounds of the high school. That in 2003 and 2004, there had been two prior accidents in the same intersection involving a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy during the same pre-dawn hours.

     

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the Town of Apple Valley was not required to reduce the speed limit along Bear Valley Road and it was justified in setting the speed limit to 55 miles per hour at all times since, as it argued, the street and intersection were not "school zones."

    Further, defendant argued that Alex’s negligence  in crossing against the light was a substantial factor in causing his death.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Wrongful death of their first-born child.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $6,500,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $200,000

Additional Notes

Plaintiffs served their statutory offer to compromise in the amount of $6,500,000. Defendant served its statutory offer to compromise in the amount of $100,000 to each parent. Plaintiffs argued for a minimum of $3,000,000 in past non-economic damages and $30,000,000 in future non-economic damages, however the jury was tasked with having to value the loss of love, companionship, care, comfort, and society of to the parents and were free to arrive at their own valuation of the damages.

 

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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