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L.A. ordered to pay $23.7 million in ‘dangerous intersection’ death

A jury on Monday found the city of Los Angeles primarily liable for a traffic collision that killed a scientist in San Pedro three years ago. 

The jury awarded $23.7 million to the widow and young son of Thomas Guilmette, a 59-year-old Northrop Grumman employee who died three years ago after his motorcycle struck a car that had inched into traffic on a busy avenue in northwest San Pedro. 

Attorneys for Guilmette’s family argued that he would not have died if the intersection had been properly designed. The jury found the city 95% liable for his death, attorney Don Liddy said. 

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“It’s a very significant judgment against the city,” Liddy said. He said residents of northwest San Pedro had complained for years about the blind corner at Summerland and Cabrillo avenues but the city was “not responsive.”

Drivers waiting on Cabrillo to turn left onto Summerland were forced to edge into oncoming traffic to peer around a blind corner, attorneys said. Cars parked on the street and a hill just before the intersection made it difficult for drivers to see each other on both streets. 

City attorney spokesman Rob Wilcox called the judgment “outrageous,” and said Los Angeles would appeal.

On Feb. 23, 2013, Guilmette struck a driver who pulled into his path as he headed to work at Northrop Grumman. Witnesses estimated he was going about 35 mph at the time of the collision, Liddy said.

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The judgment was unusually large, Liddy said, because attorneys showed the jury that L.A. officials had planned in 2001 and 2009 to make changes to the intersection that could have improved visibility.

After Guilmette’s death, city officials added a stop sign on Summerland at Cabrillo and restricted street parking there in an attempt to improve visibility. 

“It wasn’t until after the accident that they followed their own plan,” Liddy said. “Those changes would have allowed motorists to see each other at a dangerous intersection." 

For more transportation news, follow @laura_nelson on Twitter.

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