The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to pay out $2.6 million to the family of a man who was killed and whose then-7-year-old daughter was left a quadriplegic in a hit-and-run collision in Watts.
Early in the evening of April 20, 2012, Jose Arreola was crossing Santa Ana Boulevard at Watts Avenue with his wife and their two daughters in a marked school crosswalk when a pearl-white Cadillac Escalade barreled into the 38-year- old father, who tried to grab his older child and take the brunt of the impact when he saw the SUV wasn’t going to stop, according to the family’s lawsuit.
His wife, Erika, and 4-year-old daughter, Adriana, had been walking just behind the victims and escaped injury.
Arreola, a longtime employee of Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, died the next day. His daughter Angelica suffered brain damage and paralysis.
There were no traffic signals at the intersection adjacent to the parking lot for Ritter Elementary School, where the family had been attending an after-school program.
Ben Meiselas, one of the family’s attorneys, stated in court papers that a county traffic study done before the accident showed that “imminent danger” existed to those using the crosswalk.
Numerous improvements, including the installation of stop signs and new school crossing signs, weren’t implemented as scheduled three months before the hit-and-run because of a “complete breakdown within the bureaucracy” of the county division handling traffic and lighting, according to Meiselas.
After the lawsuit was filed, the street was updated with the new stop signs and Santa Ana Boulevard was reconfigured to have only one lane on each side rather than two, Meiselas said.
County lawyers recommended the settlement, citing the risks and uncertainties inherent in any trial, though the county “denies the allegation and contends that the Cadillac driver was the sole cause of the accident,” according to a summary provided to the board.
The board approved the payout without comment.
Arreola’s widow agreed to a $600,000 settlement with the Los Angeles Unified School District last year.
The hit-and-run driver was never identified.
The Escalade sustained damage to its right front fender, front bumper and grille, and the Cadillac emblem located on the front of the SUV was left at the crash scene.
–City News Service
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