An Irvine couple won $2.5 million in damages Thursday against a man who hit and killed their 20-year-old daughter in a traffic crash on Laguna Canyon Road five years ago.
After a monthlong trial before Superior Court Judge David G. Sills, jurors awarded that amount to Bob and Sheri Hill, according to their attorney, Wylie Aitken. Their daughter, Lorraine Hill, was killed instantly on April 27, 1985, when a pickup truck sideswiped her car about 3:30 a.m.
Jurors found that the truck's driver, Glenn Barnhill, 29, of Florida, was guilty of gross negligence. Barnhill, formerly of Laguna Beach, had been drinking at a party and was on his way home when he wandered out of his lane and struck Hill, who was headed home from her job as a waitress in Corona del Mar, Aitken said. Barnhill suffered bruises in the crash.
Barnhill was acquitted of drunk-driving charges, Aitken said. In the civil case, Barnhill's attorney argued that the crash was Hill's fault because she had swerved out of her lane and struck Barnhill, Aitken said.
Barnhill's lawyer could not be reached for comment after the verdict was announced. The damages were assessed against Barnhill and Bear Automotive Inc., a company owned by his father, Aitken said. Barnhill was driving a company truck when the accident happened.
Hill's parents also named the state of California as a defendant, because the road had been narrowed and its median eliminated while state workers were laying sewer pipe in the area, Aitken said. Jurors absolved the state of any blame, Aitken said.