California Republican Party Agrees to Pay $11 Million In Catastrophic Injury Lawsuit
June 10, 2021
SANTA ANA, Calif., May 24, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Attorneys with Aitken-Aitken-Cohn secured a maximum settlement of $11 million from the California Republican Party on behalf of a catastrophically injured husband and father of six children.
The plaintiff, Richard Ruehle suffered severe injuries in a freeway crash caused by a paid campaign worker, ending nearly five years of intense litigation by Aitken-Aitken-Cohn’s Cris Aitken and Megan Demski that exposed serious dangers associated with the lax standards of paid political campaign precinct walkers.
In addition to compensating plaintiff Richard Ruehle for a life-changing tragedy that left him a quadriplegic, the public resolution helps expose the ongoing dangers of political campaigns which have become big business, with goals far beyond a single election. It brings needed responsibility and accountability to an arena that required tenacious advocacy and ingenuity to investigate.
“Politicians have responsibilities just like any other employer, and this settlement ensures that the California Republican Party or any party will not escape accountability,” said lead counsel Cris Aitken of Aitken-Aitken-Cohn.
Ruehle was commuting on the 91 freeway on August 5, 2016, as do so many Inland Empire residents, near the Orange County/Riverside border, when he was struck by a Chevrolet Malibu driven by an unlicensed driver.
Aitken-Aitken-Cohn’s team discovered the unlicensed driver was connected to a much larger enterprise through his work as a paid employee of the 2016 Eric Linder for State Assembly campaign, which was uninsured. They painstakingly found evidence establishing that the unlicensed driver was an employee of Linder’s campaign which was in a joint venture with the California Republican Party to collect data from potential voters.
The precinct driver’s work went beyond what citizens might expect from a State Assembly campaign in a defined district: He and other paid campaign workers weren’t just trying to get Linder elected; they were helping the California Republican Party enhance an already detailed statewide voter database that can be used in campaigns at every level of government (local, state and national).
That meant his work didn’t just benefit Linder’s campaign, it benefited the state California Republican Party. Together, the efforts constituted a legal joint venture that made both entities liable for Ruehle’s injuries. The California Republican Party considered victory in Linder’s Assembly District 60 in Riverside County to be so important that they poured extra money, services, equipment and attention into extensive data-gathering efforts that had employees contacting as many voters as possible. The unlicensed precinct walker himself had no experiencing canvassing or campaigning and was not familiar with the district.
“Why should those large political employers be less accountable than Amazon drivers, Domino’s pizza drivers and others using our highways at potential risk to others? These are paid campaign precinct walkers in districts they’re largely unfamiliar with, and seeking broad information from the voters they’re contacting,” said Wylie Aitken.
Ruehle was the provider for his wife, Christel, and their six children. Ruehle loved to hike, practice martial arts and explore the outdoors with his family. Since his injuries, he’s started participating in an adaptive CrossFit program to regain strength, in addition to regular physical therapy. He also volunteers with the Triumph Foundation as an inspirational speaker and counselor for people who have been newly diagnosed with spinal cord injuries. Christel, a front-line nurse, cares for him.
“Richard and Christel represent triumph over tragedy and are role models for us all. This settlement will pay for his lifelong medical care and help him focus on spending time with his family and building his new life. This will also help them help other spinal cord injury victims,” said Megan Demshki, co-lead counsel and head of Aitken-Aitken-Cohn’s Riverside office.
The $11 million will be paid by the California Republican Party’s insurance carrier and is the maximum available under their policy.
The plaintiff’s legal team includes attorneys Chris Aitken, Megan Demski, Wylie Aitken, Darren Aitken and Casey Johnson of Aitken Aitken Cohn. The case was litigated in Orange County Superior Court. (Court # 30-2017-00912044)
For further information contact Orange County personal injury attorney Chris Aitken or Megan Demski at 714-434-1424.