Los Angeles County lifeguards keep watch over the beach in Venice Beach. Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles County lifeguards keep watch over the beach in Venice Beach. Photo by John Schreiber.

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to pay out $1.7 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a newlywed inadvertently run over by a lifeguard’s SUV while sunbathing at Venice Beach more than two years ago.

Lorae Bermudez of Whittier suffered a lacerated liver when she was struck about 4:20 p.m. on Sept. 15, 2014, according to her court papers. She and her husband, Thomas Kim, sued Los Angeles County two months later, alleging negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

“She (Bermudez) still shudders at the thought that this happened to her and could happen to other innocent people at the beach,” the couple’s attorney, Robert Glassman, said in August, when a tentative settlement was reached. “She’ll never forget. But she’s happy to put this behind her and move on with her life with her family.”

According to her June 2015 deposition, Bermudez, then 26, was lying on a beach towel on the sand when “I felt this crushing weight come over me.” Her husband was swimming in the water at the time.

After the wheels of the SUV had passed over her, Bermudez said she was “able to scream and yell and cry. I knew who it was that ran me over, so I expected immediate help.”

She said other sunbathers were present, but they did not respond to her pleas for help. “So at that point I began to scream out, `Somebody please help me,’ and I shouted that out several times,” Bermudez said.

Bermudez said she asked a man who approached her to find her husband and gave a description of what her spouse was wearing.

Lifeguard Lidia Barillas was deposed last September. Asked whether she believed in retrospect that she should have noticed Bermudez before running over her, the witness replied, “I hope I see everyone. So, yes, I should have seen her,” according to her deposition.

Barillas testified that she believed Bermudez did nothing to contribute to the accident. Barillas said she had left her tower to warn swimmers about dangerous conditions, was traveling 2 to 4 mph and that a warning beeper on her Ford Escape was activated.

A corrective action plan provided to the board listed changes to policies and recurring safety training on beach driving, as well as alternative vehicles for beach driving.

Bermudez was at least the third person struck by a vehicle while lying on an area beach in 2014, and the second on Venice Beach that year, according to the Los Angeles Times. The other two cases involved a trash truck and a county maintenance vehicle.

A county beach maintenance vehicle also ran over a man on Venice Beach last November, causing serious injuries.

–City News Service

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