Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorneys David Rudorfer and Tom Schultz obtained a $6.3 million jury verdict for the family of a Southern California man who suffered fatal injuries as a result of being struck by a vendor vehicle at the Whittier Uptown Association Farmers Market (WUAFM). The case was held in Los Angeles County Superior Court, South District.
On the morning of April 1, 2016, decedent Armando Martinez was a customer at the Market when a vehicle driven by defendant Maria Acuna drove in reverse at approximately 5 miles per hour striking Martinez and causing him to land on his head and suffer injuries resulting in his death. At the time of the incident, the Farmers Market was already open for business and Defendant Acuna, who was working for a market vendor, was permitted by the manager to drive onto the market grounds to set-up her vendor tent despite the known danger posed to customers.
Prior to trial, defendants Whittier Uptown Association (the “Association”) and Acuna both admitted that they were negligent in causing the fatal collision but the State Farm attorneys representing the Association claimed that Acuna should be held responsible for a significant majority of the blame because she was the driver of the vehicle that struck Martinez. The plaintiffs contended that the Association was 100 percent responsible for the collision because, as its management admitted in deposition, it was supposed to keep vehicles off the property after the market opened for business and it violated a safety rule that would have prevented the fatal incident.
“State Farm [which insures the Whittier Uptown Association] didn’t think the life of a 74-year-old man was worth anything and this jury’s verdict proves that the insurance company was very wrong,” Rudorfer said. “The verdict sends a message to all companies that operate or manage Farmers markets across the country that if they violate safety rules meant to prevent pedestrians from being injured in vehicle collisions, they cannot escape the responsibility by simply blaming the driver or vendor.”
The jury deliberated for approximately one-and-a-half days before reaching the verdict, which placed 99.5% of the responsibility for Martinez’s death on Whittier Uptown Association and only 0.5% on the driver, Acuna. Martinez was survived by his wife and his two adult daughters.
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