$2,296,000: Wrongful Death Of Talented Young Toy Designer

CASE DESCRIPTION: A 28 year old project designer was driving South on Sepulveda Blvd. in the afternoon on a rainy day. A truck driver in the course and scope of employment lost control of his truck, swerved across the highway and hit the Decedent. The Parents brought suit for wrongful death against the driver and his Company. The Company disputed liability and actual damages.

RESULT: $2,296,400.00 total settlement. NOTE: Plaintiff’s counsel believes that this matter is one of the largest, if not the largest, settlements of an adult child wrongful death case. Plaintiffs’ counsel believes that the use of an extensive settlement video, including interviews, photographs, and examples of the decedent’s work was instrumental in achieving this settlement.

The Plaintiffs are the parents of the Decedent, Lizette A. who was a 28 year old single industrial designer working for a major toy manufacturer, Mattel. The Decedent was fatally injured when her vehicle was struck by a truck owned and operated by Defendants. Plaintiffs’ were very close to their daughter even though they lived in New York and she resided in California. The Decedent provided some level of financial support to her parents, and the family planned to reunite in California eventually.

The Decedent was killed on December 5, 1997, as a result of the injuries she sustained after her vehicle was stuck on the driver’s side by a tractor trailer rig owned and operated by the Defendants. Decedent was driving south on Sepulveda Boulevard at approximately 1:41 p.m. It was a rainy day. The Defendant’s vehicle was traveling north on Sepulveda. At that point, the truck”s driver lost control of his tractor trailer rig due to the fact that he was driving too fast for the wet roadway conditions. He swerved across the divided highway into the southbound lanes and struck decedent’s vehicle on the front left side.

The impact between the two vehicles was such that the entire left side of Ms. A’ vehicle was torn away. The seat belt anchor was torn away from its support, allowing Ms. A. to be ejected from the vehicle and onto the roadway. As a result, Ms. A. sustained numerous severe physical injuries which led to her death.

The Plaintiffs and the Decedent formed a tight knit Cuban immigrant family. The decedent was the Plaintiffs’ only child. The Plaintiff father took on a second job to finance his daughter’s high school and college education. In turn, the Decedent assumed many education related debts upon her graduation and made frequent financial contributions to her parents. The Decedent was a talented toy designer and had received a substantial promotion shortly before her death.

The Defendants claimed that the loss of control was caused by a phantom vehicle cutting in front of its truck. According to the truck driver, he applied his brakes to avoid this vehicle, which caused his rig to lose control. Defendants also claimed that the government entities in control of this roadway bore some responsibility for improper drainage of the roadway.

They further disputed the amount and extent of damages. As an emancipated adult with her own future and living across the continent with a few visits per year, the parents could not realistically suffer an economic loss and a limited non-economic loss.

TYPE OF CASE: Wrongful Death; Auto/Truck

INJURIES: The auto accident resulted in the death of Plaintiffs’ daughter.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: On 12/5/97 in El Segundo, California

Father 61 at time of incident
Mother 59 at time of incident

Decedent – industrial project designer
Father employed by Barney’s New York
Mother employed by Mt. Sinai Hospital

Darren O. Aitken & Wylie A. Aitken
Plaintiffs – Pedro & Iria A.

Thomas A. Kearney & Bess Blank
Defendant – Roe Aircraft Company & Roe Manufacturing Company