L.A. County OKs $2.6-million payout in wrongful death case
Early on a Friday evening in the spring of 2012, Angelica Arreola, 7, left her after-school program at Ritter Elementary School in Watts after receiving an award for improvement in math and reading, according to court documents.
She was walking with her parents and younger sister in a marked school crosswalk when a Cadillac Escalade sped through the intersection, killing her father and leaving her paralyzed. The driver fled the scene, and has not been identified or apprehended, according to county documents.
Angelica, whom court documents identify as Anjelica, died from her injuries in December 2016.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to authorize a $2.6-million payout from the Department of Public Works to settle a civil suit by the girl’s mother, Erika, and younger sister, Adriana, over wrongful death, negligence and emotional distress charges.
The Los Angeles Unified School District approved a separate settlement of $600,000 last year.
L.A. County paid nearly $60 million in settlements and an additional $72 million in other litigation expenses in fiscal year 2015-16, the latest year for which figures were immediately available.
County employees had long known that the school crosswalk, at the intersection of North Santa Ana Boulevard and Watts Avenue, was dangerous, the lawsuit alleged, yet school officials recommended it as a path on a “suggested pedestrian route to school” map.
Drivers turning off South Alameda Street, a road designed for high-speed traffic, were often unaware of the school or their need to slow down, according to the complaint. The street lacked stop signs and speed bumps, and drivers’ view of the school and crosswalk signs were obstructed by trees and foliage and, during evenings, the setting sun.
Concerns had been raised at school board and other community meetings for years before the accident, an amended complaint states.
The Department of Public Works had conducted a traffic study and concluded that the county needed to install “all-way stop control,” install 25-mph speed limit signs and upgrade school warning signs at the intersection, according to emails submitted as part of the lawsuit.
The repairs and upgrades were supposed to be completed by the end of January 2012, according to the suit, but were never done.
“Defendants County and LAUSD simply forgot about, and neglected, the repairs and upgrades to protect against the dangerous crosswalk they had created,” the amended complaint states.
The repairs, the suit said, were completed after Angelica and her father were struck.
County officials declined to comment, but in a July 20 letter and case summary sent to the Board of Supervisors, attorneys for the county recommended settlement “due to the inherent risks and uncertainties involved in a trial, and the potential liability and potential exposure to an adverse verdict.”
Mark Geragos, the family’s attorney, said news of the settlement brought mixed emotions for the pair’s survivors.
“It brings closure,” he said, but “nothing will bring back the father or Angie.”
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