$750,000: 20 Year Old Killed In Police Pursuit

CASE DESCRIPTION: Decedent was traveling down a residential street in the middle of the day. Upon reaching an intersection the Decedent collided with a police officer responding to a call for assistance. Although she was driving at a safe speed and wearing her seatbelt, the young woman died on the scene due to her head injuries. Decedent’s parents brought suit against the City of Corona for the wrongful death of their daughter.

RESULT: $750,000.00 total settlement

This incident occurred on December 16, 1994, at approximately 11:18 p.m., at the intersection of Howard and Eighth Streets in the City of Corona. Both of these streets were governed by the prima facie 25 mph speed limit governing residential areas. However, there were no actual speed limit signs within a couple of blocks of this intersection in either direction.

The other driver involved in this incident was an on-duty uniformed Corona police officer driving a marked patrol car. At approximately 11:18 p.m., a Riverside Police Department helicopter broadcasted a request for assistance (officer needs help, shots fired). The location of the call was a little less than three miles from the officer’s location. This officer and another officer (driving a separate patrol vehicle) responded. The two police vehicles traveled northbound on Howard into the Eighth Street intersection, by-passing the stop signs in their direction. Unfortunately, at the same time, Jennifer C. was traveling westbound on Eighth Street. The front of the first patrol car struck the left of her 1990 Isuzu Impulse.

Jennifer C. was pronounced dead at the scene. Pursuant to the autopsy report, Jennifer C. was killed as a result of blunt force trauma and severe head injuries. The police officer received minor injuries. At the time this incident occurred, Jennifer C. was wearing her seat belt. The police officer, however, was not. Post-accident testing revealed that neither driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Due to the fact that a Corona police officer was involved in this collision, the California Highway Patrol MAIT team was brought in to investigate this incident.

Post-incident testing by the CHP indicated by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the police officer’s emergency flashers were in the full “on” position at the time of impact. In regard to Jennifer C’s vehicle, the CHP indicated that the right front parking light was on, but the status of the headlights was “indeterminate.” The CHP also performed an accident reconstruction. Based on their calculations, the CHP concluded that the patrol car was going a minimum of 41 mph at the time of impact, while Jennifer C’s vehicle was going a minimum of 27 mph The CHP found no evidence to indicate that either driver took any evasive maneuvesr prior to this collision occurring.

The CHP concluded that Jennifer C. was given insufficient time to react and yield to the oncoming police vehicle. Since she did not have time to react, the police officer involved was in violation of the statutes governing the use of emergency vehicles. The CHP based its decision on the limited field of vision the officer had to cross-traffic (due to visual obstructions) in conjunction with the speed at which he was traveling. Even though Jennifer C. appeared to be traveling at a speed slightly higher than the prima facie speed limit (25 mph vs. 27 mph minimum calculated speed), the CHP concluded this was not a contributing factor in this incident since the collision would have occurred even if she had been traveling at 25 mph.

The Plaintiffs in this action were Jennifer C’s parents Richard and Marilyn C. The suit was premised on the theory that Jennifer C. died as a result of the negligence of an officer with the Corona Police Department.

TYPE OF CASE: Auto v. Auto; Wrongful Death

INJURIES: The auto accident resulted in the death of Ms. Jennifer C.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: On 12/16/94 at approximately 11:18 p.m. in the City of Corona, CA.

PLAINTIFF’S AGE: Decedent – 20 at time of incident.

OCCUPATION: Decedent – Waitress

Darren O. Aitken & Wylie A. Aitken
For Plaintiffs – Marilyn & Richard C.

Bruce D. Praet
For Defendant – City of Corona

DEFENDANT INSURANCE CO.: City of Corona was self-insured for first $500,000.00 AIG was the excess carrier.