La Puente Child's Attorney's Ask Judge; Approve $1M Settlement
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A proposed settlement of nearly $1 million for the 10-year-old daughter of an Azusa man who was killed on a poorly lit freeway in Pomona is awaiting approval from a judge. Dwayne Armenta, 36, was struck and killed on the eastbound San Bernardino (10) Freeway on Nov. 23, 2016, after his Ford F-150 truck ran out of gas about 1,000 feet from the Kellogg Drive off-ramp.
According to court papers filed by her attorneys on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the plaintiff, who was 4 years old at the time of her father's death and now lives in La Puente, is set to receive a little over $625,000 after attorneys' fees and other costs are deducted from the proposed settlement amount. The settlement will be placed in annuities for her benefit, pending a judge's review due to her age.
The proposed settlement, which includes defendants Guy F. Atkinson Construction LLC and High-Light Electric Inc., is scheduled for review by Judge Jill Feeney on April 7. Another plaintiff in the consolidated lawsuit is the victim's brother, 21-year-old Devin Armenta of Claremont, who was 14 at the time of the accident. The terms of his settlement were not disclosed. The overall lawsuit accord was reached in January as the case was about to go to trial.
In December, Feeney rejected arguments by attorneys for the companies that they had no obligation to provide lighting on the freeway because they enjoy the same civil immunities as Caltrans, which was previously dismissed as a defendant in the case. Feeney ruled that "the companies are contractors that have a duty to use reasonable care to prevent damage to persons whom they may reasonably expect to be affected by their work," and that "any immunities Caltrans enjoyed regarding liability for negligence do not extend to (the firms, which) remain liable for negligence in performing their contracted work."
Feeney had also denied previous motions by attorneys for the two companies to dismiss all claims against them, finding that there were triable issues regarding whether an alleged lack of sufficient lighting in the area represented a negligently created dangerous condition.
Caltrans contracted with Atkinson, which hired High-Light to provide lighting for the renovation work known as the High-Occupancy Expansion Project. Feeney signed a judgment on Nov. 18 formally relieving Caltrans of any liability in the case.
According to the lawsuit, the crash occurred on a heavily traveled stretch of the freeway. The suit alleged that the asphalt shoulder and the slow lane were closed off, leaving drivers such as Armenta with no safe place to walk if they had problems with their cars. The suit claimed that, under those circumstances, a stranded motorist such as Armenta had no safe alternative but to either stay in his car in one of the four open lanes and risk being struck from behind, or leave his truck and be vulnerable to being hit by other vehicles.
The suit further claimed that Armenta initially stayed in his truck but decided to leave and walk to a gas station by way of the Kellogg Drive off-ramp. He was able to cross all the westbound lanes while carrying a gas can but was fatally struck in the unlit median center by a driver who fled the scene, according to the lawsuit.