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ARTICLE ID 8303

Motor vehicle negligence - Wrongful death of passenger in multi-vehicle collision on California highway.

San Diego County, California

@TITLEHD = PLAINTIFFS’ CAUSE The plaintiffs’ decedent, a 38-year-old woman, was a front seat passenger in a Ford Escort motor vehicle driven by the defendant, Chavez. The vehicle was traveling north on Interstate 5 in San Diego near the Balboa exit. The highway at that area consists of four lanes of travel.

The Chavez vehicle was traveling in the third lane of travel, one lane away from the exit ramp. The second defendant, San Diego Transit, was operating a bus in the fourth lane of travel. The third defendant, Leong Kuba Sea Products, was operating a truck that had pulled off the highway onto the shoulder right before the exit ramp and was stopped with its flashers on. The driver of the Chavez vehicle decided to speed up and attempt to cut in front of the defendant bus in an effort to get off at the Balboa exit of the highway. The defendant bus and its driver attempted to brake, however, the bus impacted with the Ford Escort and pushed the Escort into the rear of the fish truck.

As a result of the collision the decedent was killed at the scene.

The plaintiffs contended that the defendant driver of the decedent’s vehicle was negligent in her operation of the vehicle. The plaintiffs further contended that the bus and fish truck operators were negligent in their operation of their vehicles and that their negligence was a proximate cause of the decedent’s injuries. The plaintiffs contended that the defendant bus failed to take appropriate action to avoid the collision with the Escort. The plaintiffs further alleged that the driver of the defendant fish truck had parked its vehicle on the shoulder of the highway at a spot that impeded the Escort’s ability to safely exit the freeway.

@TITLEHD = DEFENDANTS’ CONTENTIONS The defendant Chavez had a minimal insurance policy and settled with the plaintiffs prior to the trial in this matter. The remaining two defendants contended that they were not responsible for the decedent’s death. They maintained that the operator of the vehicle in which the decedent was a passenger was the sole cause of the accident. The defendants asserted that the California Highway Patrol in its investigation of the accident stated that neither of these defendants was responsible for the occurrence of the accident. The defendant bus company asserted that collision with the Ford Escort was unavoidable based upon the negligent operation of that vehicle. The defendant’s bus driver asserted that he applied the brakes as soon as he saw the erratic driving of the Escort, however collision was unavoidable.

The fish company defendant maintained that it was in no way responsible for the happening of the accident and the decedent’s death. This defendant put forward the testimony of the plaintiffs’ own accident reconstruction expert who testified that the position of the fish truck did not impede the Ford Escort’s ability to exit the highway.

The trial lasted six days and the jury deliberated approximately one hour before returning a verdict for the defendants in this matter.

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