$1,650,000 :: Garcia v. Ortiz Construction

SETTLEMENT : Child struck by car because of poor traffic control on construction project

In the afternoon hours of April 24, 2000, 8-year-old Patricia Garcia was traveling with her then-babysitter Trinidad Romero on errands after school. The car, operated by Romero, was traveling southbound on San Diego’s Euclid Avenue during rush hour traffic.

On their way home, Romero decided to stop at a local market/liquor store on the opposite side of Euclid Avenue. However, the heavy opposing traffic made it impossible to turn left into the parking lot, so Romero parked in a no parking zone on the right, directly across from the store. Once parked, Romero searched the vehicle’s trunk for her purse and allowed the young Patricia to cross the street by herself to purchase candy.

Around the same time, Arturo Rodriguez and his passenger were also making their way southbound on Euclid. The pair claimed to see a construction sign and orange construction cones protruding into the northbound lane just a quarter of a mile north of the liquor store. This allegedly forced the northbound lane to be narrowed and create a bottleneck which exacerbated the traffic situation.

Having bought her candy, Patricia was preparing to cross the road back to Romero’s vehicle. A driver in the halted northbound lane waved her forward to the southbound lane where Rodriguez’s car was approaching. Both Patricia and Rodriguez claimed a large SUV-style vehicle obstructed their views and so as Patricia began to cross the southbound lane, Rodriguez’s vehicle struck her.

Patricia Garcia suffered debilitating injuries from the impact that required extensive surgeries, hospitalization, and rehabilitation over the course of several months. Her injuries included substantial orthopedic injuries and head trauma resulting in cognitive dysfunction with memory impairment that doctors predicted could impact her success in finding gainful employment in her adult years.

The Garcia family hired attorney Richard B. Koskoff to represent Patricia in a lawsuit against the driver Rodriguez, the city of San Diego, and Ortiz Construction Company. His team argued that Rodriguez was partially culpable of vehicular negligence while the city and Ortiz Construction Co. breached their duties to residents in increasing the risk of harm to pedestrians during the course of their work. Specifically, Koskoff argued that the system of construction cones combined with the hilly San Diego street created a dangerous roadway condition that limited driver’s sight and ability to avoid pedestrians crossing the street.

Initially, the city and Ortiz argued that Patricia was at fault for darting out without looking and contended there was no road design defect. However, just before trial the two parties agreed to a settlement on January 31, 2003. On that date, the plaintiff entered into a global settlement with both the city and Ortiz for $1,650,000 present value, with a guaranteed payout of $3,282,080 over the next 30 years of Patricia’s life. After 30 years, Patricia is set to receive $3,318 monthly and $1,842 quarterly for the rest of her life. Additionally, Booth & Koskoff secured a settlement of $25,000 with Rodriguez.

Article [PDF]