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California IN BRIEF : PETALUMA : $2.3-Million Award in Fatal Crash

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

The parents of a Petaluma teen-ager who died in a head-on collision minutes after buying a faulty used car say a $2.3-million judgment against the car dealer is a hollow victory. “No amount of money can make up for the loss of their daughter,” said Tony Wilde, an attorney with the law firm that represented the family of Elvia Ponce. “But they are a very brave and strong family and they hope this will send out a message to other used car dealers.” Ponce was 16 when she drove out of Michael’s Auto Sales in October, 1989, after buying a used car. She was killed and her two siblings were seriously injured moments later, when her car swerved into oncoming traffic. Attorneys for the Ponce family sued the dealer, charging that it failed to properly inspect and repair the car and that it had been illegally altered. The two front tires were mismatched and under-inflated and the steering was faulty, they said. The judgment may be meaningless, however, because the dealer’s insurance company says it does not have a cent. Savoy Reinsurance Co. says it has suffered substantial losses in junk bond investments.


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