The California Highway Patrol has agreed to a settlement that could pay up to $12 million to a 20-year-old San Dimas woman who lost her arm and suffered other injuries in a 1982 freeway accident, lawyers for both sides said Thursday.
The settlement, reached last Friday, ended a Los Angeles County Superior Court suit brought by Trudy Dehner, who charged a CHP officer with negligence for causing a car to collide with a motorcycle on which she was a passenger.
State Approval Needed
Dehner, who was 17 at the time of the accident, was thrown under a car and dragged for 300 feet, according to her attorney, Robert Morris. Her right arm was severed and she suffered disfiguring scars over 20% of her body, he said.
Supervising Deputy Atty. Gen. Robert Francis, who represented the CHP, said the settlement must be approved by the director of the state Department of Finance and the money must be appropriated by the Legislature.
While the settlement is believed to be one of the largest ever agreed to by the CHP, Francis said the maximum cost to the state will be $1.8 million.
Assuming the appropriation is approved, Francis said, the state will pay Dehner $828,000. It will then purchase annuities that will pay her $3,500 a month for life, plus maintenance costs for her sophisticated prosthetic arm, Francis said.
"If Miss Dehner lives to be 80 years old, $12 million will have been paid out over the next 60 years," Francis said.
Morris said the case was "difficult and complex, precipitated by a negligent action of a CHP officer attempting to arrest a speeding driver by crossing all lanes of the crowded San Bernardino Freeway in Ontario."
"No attempt was made to slow the flow of traffic or to give regard to motorists on the freeway," he alleged.
Morris added that a drunken driver who could not stop in time rear-ended the motorcycle on which Dehner was a passenger.
"She is pleased with the settlement, but nothing replaces her arm," Morris said. "She has only had the (prosthetic) arm about two months, but she is learning how to use it, and she plans to enroll in college in September."
Francis said the state decided to settle the case before it went to trial because "a jury verdict could have been greatly higher than the amount the settlement is going to cost the state. Due to (Dehner's) serious injuries, she would have presented a very sympathetic picture to the jury."