SANTA ANA (CNS) - A man left paralyzed in a Southland freeway collision triggered by a precinct walker reached an $11 million settlement with the California Republican Party, an agreement that appears to the first of its kind in the nation, the plaintiff's attorney said today.
Richard Ruehle, who lives in the Inland Empire with his wife and six children, was left a quadriplegic following the Aug. 5, 2016, collision on the Riverside (91) Freeway on the border of Orange and Riverside counties.
Ruehle was riding a motorcycle with a group of other bikers when the precinct walker's vehicle struck him, said attorney Chris Aitken.
The precinct worker had spent the morning knocking on doors, gathering data from voters for Eric Linder's failed 2016 Assembly reelection campaign, and was returning to work following lunch when the collision happened, Aitken said.
The unlicensed driver, whose name was not released, failed to check his mirrors and was “inattentive'' while switching lanes, Aitken said.
The attorneys working on the case did a “deep dive'' on who the man was working for at the time, and found a “connection not only to the campaign but to the California Republican Party,'' he said.
“It really required extensive discovery to understand their data collection efforts,'' Aitken said. “This particular campaign was what they call a targeted campaign, so essentially the state party was dissatisfied with the campaign's data collection so they got involved with the campaign to improve the data collection process.''
The state GOP denied that the man was working for the California Republican Party.
“In 2016, an employee of a California Assembly campaign was involved in a car accident that permanently impacted the life of the plaintiff,'' said Ashlee Titus, general counsel for the CRP. “The individual involved in the car accident was not an employee of the California Republican Party. The settlement was entirely paid by our insurance company, Travelers Insurance Company, and not by the party. We continue to wish the best for everyone involved.''
Aitken said the data gathered was used by the campaign and the CRP.
He predicted the settlement will prompt political organizations to do more vetting of employees to ensure, among other things, that their workers are licensed drivers.
“It's important we have licensed drivers out there doing business,'' Aitken said. “While we fully appreciate the California Republican Party putting up the $11 million to compensate this family, we believe that political parties should be accountable in the same manner that other entities are.''
Ruehle was an active hiker and outdoorsman who had a passion for martial arts before the collision, Aitken said. He has limited use of his arms, but will never walk again, the attorney said.
“He has tremendous life-care needs,'' Aitken said. “He requires full-time care.''
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