One of two men accidentally struck by an unmarked sheriff’s car while awaiting help following a 2010 freeway collision testified Monday that he was thrust over a divider wall and survived, but that the other driver was fatally injured.
“He was not responding so I kind of figured he was deceased,” Eric Lauderdale told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing the retrial of a civil suit brought on behalf of the dead driver’s 7-year-old daughter, Jocelyn Hernandez.
In April 2012, another jury found the county and Deputy Ted Broadston negligent and awarded the girl $550,000. But the jury also found her father and Lauderdale partially negligent and the overall award was reduced to $280,500.
Her lawyers appealed, arguing that Judge Michelle Rosenblatt erred in allowing the panel to hear that the fatally injured driver, 20-year-old Randy Hernandez, had a medical marijuana prescription. They said the jury might have been swayed to assign partial negligence to him after hearing that information and award his daughter less money as a result.
Last October, a 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed, finding that Randy Hernandez’s marijuana use did not cause the accident. The justices ordered a retrial.
The lawsuit was filed in October 2010 on Joceyln’s behalf by her mother, Debbie Castaneda, who is not a plaintiff.
Randy Hernandez and Lauderdale were involved in a collision in the southbound lanes of the Harbor (110) Freeway near Olympic Boulevard shortly after 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 28, 2010.
Broadston, driving an unmarked car, subsequently hit Lauderdale’s disabled vehicle, then struck Randy Hernandez as he and Lauderdale stood near a median to await help, according to testimony in both trials.
Alcohol and drugs were not a factor in Broadston’s driving and he was not responding to an emergency, according to testimony. However, attorneys for the county maintained in the first trial that Randy Hernandez’s judgment was impaired by marijuana, which he used to treat a bad back.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys maintained Broadston was negligent and was driving at least 75 mph, but defense lawyers denied he was speeding and said Randy Hernandez should have stayed in his SUV.
However, Lauderdale testified that Randy Hernandez decided to get out of the SUV when yet another collision occurred nearby, before the two of them were hit by Broadston’s vehicle. He said a vehicle wheel came toward them and Randy Hernandez said, “(Epithet) that, I’m getting out of the car.”
Moments earlier, Randy Hernandez handed him a soda and the two chatted as they waited for help to arrive, Lauderdale said. He said that after Randy Hernandez got out of the SUV, the two of them stood in front of the vehicle and hoped that its headlights would alert drivers to their presence.
Lauderdale said the sound of the engine in Broadston’s car alerted him that it was approaching.
“It was all real fast,” he said. “Next thing, I looked up and I was on the other side of the freeway. I saw my car crashed into the wall.”
Lauderdale said the drivers passing him in the northbound lanes began sounding their horns at him and that he later found out one of his ankles was broken.
Earlier today, Broadston testified that he told traffic investigators he may have had some fault in the collision. He testified that the bright illumination of the Staples Center sign near where the accident occurred may have contributed to his inability to see the two men before hitting them. However, he said he was not blinded by the sign’s lighting and that he mentioned it so that it could be considered as a possible contributing factor to future accidents.
Broadston said he gave CPR to Randy Hernandez. He said his speed before the collision was about 55 to 60 mph.
Broadston said he is a member of the Sheriff’s Department’s Transit Services Bureau and was headed to work assignment that day after leaving the Gateway Center.
— City News Service