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L.A. agrees to $23-million settlement after man lost legs in crash

L.A. City Hall
Los Angeles City Hall.
( Richard Derk / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles has agreed to spend up to $23 million plus interest to settle a lawsuit from a man who had both legs amputated after being struck by a city employee driving a truck.

Gabriel Abikzer sued the city, the city worker and Mercedes-Benz, the maker of Abikzer’s car, after the crash nearly three years ago on Mason Avenue near Corbin Avenue in Chatsworth.

In his lawsuit, Abikzer said he got out of his Mercedes-Benz after the car engine abruptly turned off, went to unload some things from the trunk, then was struck by a city employee who “negligently operated” a pickup truck. The employee, Jeffrey Joel, used his truck to visit sites for city inspections, according to the lawsuit.

Joel, a Bureau of Contract Administration inspector, denied the claims and sued Mercedes-Benz, arguing that its negligence had created a hazard that he “could not reasonably see or avoid.” Mercedes-Benz, in turn, sued him and the city.

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Castro, grandson of Mexican immigrants and the first in his family to attend college, will become chancellor of the nation’s largest four-year university system.

The car company has settled with Abikzer, according to court records. The city inspector dropped his cross-complaint this year, as did Mercedes-Benz.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13 to 0 on Wednesday, without discussion, to approve the settlement. The agreement will also resolve the claims against the city inspector, according to the city attorney’s office.

“This tragedy has caused Mr. Abikzer great suffering, changing his life forever,” City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to him, and we hope this resolution will help him and his family move forward.”

Attorneys representing Abikzer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Joel, who has since retired from city employment, said he was unaware of the settlement with Abikzer before being contacted by a reporter.

“I’m happy for him,” Joel said. He declined to comment further.


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