SETTLEMENT : Collision in intersection
On the afternoon of February 6, 2002, Kumphak Tep drove Tanya Bonilla, 20, to Pomona High School to pick up his two brothers, California Tep and Mitonna Tep. The four were on their way home, with Tep driving southbound on White Avenue in the far left passing lane, and approaching the intersection of White Avenue and Gate 8 of the Pomona Fairgrounds (Fairplex) when a vehicle suddenly pulled out in front of them.
Charles William Beck IV had been driving northbound on White Avenue in a Ryder work truck filled with equestrian goods and had begun to negotiate a left turn across White Avenue to enter the Fairplex’s Stubben North America booth when Tep’s vehicle fast approached the intersection. Witnesses at the time report hearing the intense screeching noise of hard braking tires and watched as Tep’s vehicles swerved left from the far passing lane and into the median area of White Ave. Tep’s vehicle struck the median’s raised divider and careened further to the left, rolling over and striking a stone wall.
Front seat passenger Bonilla suffered severe blunt head trauma with amnesia that required hospilization for six days and resulted in long-term brain damage. Backseat passengers Mitonna Tep and California Tep also suffered serious injuries related to the accident, with Mitonna suffering a skull fracture and blindness in his right eye which negatively impacts his depth perception and peripheral vision and California Tep suffering minor jaw injuries, facial scarring between his lip and chin and depressions related to the incident itself.
The three passengers of the Tep vehicle hired Lawrence R. Booth and Richard B. Koskoff of The Law Offices of Booth and Koskoff to represent them in a vehicular negligence lawsuit against Beck and Stubben North America, Troy, VA., the company who contracted Beck to deliver the equestrian goods to the Fairplex. The plaintiffs contended that while driver Tep may have been approaching the intersection at excessive speeds — an estimated 70 to 80 miles per hour in a 45 mph speed zone — the accident was a result of shared responsibility and that the bulk of that responsibility rested with the defendants as Beck violated Tep’s right of way when making an unsafe left turn and failing to yield to oncoming traffic. The plaintiffs argued that had Beck yielded, driver Tep would never had had to take evasive action and no accident would have occurred.
The defense countered that it was Tep’s excessive speed that was primarily at fault for the accident. They contended that had Tep bene traveling at the speed limit, he would have had no need to swerve or take any evasive action to prevent ramming into Beck’s Ryder truck. They likewise argued that Beck was acting as an independent contractor for Stubben and not as an employee.
Booth & Koskoff ultimately settled the case on behalf of their three clients, securing a sum total of $1,275,000 for their clients paid for by Stubben North America.