County will pay fam­ily $2.6 mil­lion

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Nina Agrawal nina.agrawal@la­ Twit­ter: @AgrawalNina

Early on a Fri­day evening in the spring of 2012, An­gel­ica Arre­ola, 7, left her af­ter-school pro­gram at Rit­ter El­e­men­tary School in Watts af­ter re­ceiv­ing an award for im­prove­ment in math and read­ing, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

She was walk­ing with her par­ents and younger sis­ter in a marked school cross­walk when a Cadil­lac Es­calade sped through the in­ter­sec­tion, killing her fa­ther and leav­ing her par­a­lyzed. The driver fled the scene, and has not been iden­ti­fied or ap­pre­hended, ac­cord­ing to county doc­u­ments.

An­gel­ica, whom court doc­u­ments iden­tify as An­jel­ica, died from her in­juries in De­cem­ber 2016.

The L.A. County Board of Su­per­vi­sors voted Tues­day to au­tho­rize a $2.6-mil­lion pay­out from the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works to set­tle a civil suit by the girl’s mother, Erika, and younger sis­ter, Adri­ana, over wrong­ful death, neg­li­gence and emo­tional dis­tress charges.

The Los An­ge­les Uni­fied School District ap­proved a sep­a­rate set­tle­ment of $600,000 last year.

L.A. County paid nearly $60 mil­lion in set­tle­ments and an ad­di­tional $72 mil­lion in other lit­i­ga­tion ex­penses in fis­cal year 2015-16, the lat­est year for which fig­ures were im­me­di­ately avail­able.

County em­ploy­ees had long known that the school cross­walk, at the in­ter­sec­tion of North Santa Ana Boule­vard and Watts Av­enue, was dan­ger­ous, the law­suit al­leged, yet school of­fi­cials rec­om­mended it as a path on a “sug­gested pedes­trian route to school” map.

Driv­ers turn­ing off South Alameda Street, a road de­signed for high-speed traf­fic, were of­ten un­aware of the school or their need to slow down, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint. The street lacked stop signs and speed bumps, and driv­ers’ view of the school and cross­walk signs were ob­structed by trees and fo­liage and, dur­ing evenings, the set­ting sun.

Con­cerns had been raised at school board and other com­mu­nity meet­ings for years be­fore the ac­ci­dent, an amended com­plaint states.

The De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works had con­ducted a traf­fic study and con­cluded that the county needed to in­stall “all-way stop con­trol,” in­stall 25-mph speed limit signs and upgrade school warn­ing signs at the in­ter­sec­tion, ac­cord­ing to emails sub­mit­ted as part of the law­suit.

The re­pairs and up­grades were sup­posed to be com­pleted by the end of Jan­uary 2012, ac­cord­ing to the suit, but were never done.

“De­fen­dants County and LAUSD sim­ply for­got about, and ne­glected, the re­pairs and up­grades to pro­tect against the dan­ger­ous cross­walk they had cre­ated,” the amended com­plaint states.

The re­pairs, the suit said, were com­pleted af­ter An­gel­ica and her fa­ther were struck.

County of­fi­cials de­clined to com­ment, but in a July 20 let­ter and case sum­mary sent to the Board of Su­per­vi­sors, at­tor­neys for the county rec­om­mended set­tle­ment “due to the in­her­ent risks and un­cer­tain­ties in­volved in a trial, and the po­ten­tial li­a­bil­ity and po­ten­tial ex­po­sure to an ad­verse ver­dict.”

Mark Ger­a­gos, the fam­ily’s at­tor­ney, said news of the set­tle­ment brought mixed emo­tions for the pair’s sur­vivors.

“It brings clo­sure,” he said, but “noth­ing will bring back the fa­ther or Angie.”

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