LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge has approved a nearly $1 million settlement on behalf of behalf of the 10-year-old daughter of an Azusa man who was struck and killed on a freeway in Pomona, where unsafe conditions on the poorly lit roadway allegedly contributed to his 2016 death.
Dwayne Armenta, 36, was killed at about 2:35 a.m. Nov. 23, 2016, as he was trying to get to a gas station after his Ford F-150 truck ran out of gas on the eastbound San Bernardino (10) Freeway about 1,000 feet from the Kellogg Drive off-ramp.
The plaintiff, who was 4 years old when her father died, is now 10 and lives in La Puente. On Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jill Feeney reviewed and gave her nod to the $987,500 settlement with defendants Guy F. Atkinson Construction LLC and High-Light Electric Inc.
After deductions for attorneys' fees and other costs, the proceeds for the girl will be a little over $625,000 and the money will be placed in annuities for her benefit. The settlement needed a judge's consent because of the girl's age.
The other plaintiff in the consolidated lawsuit is the girl's brother, 21-year-old Devin Armenta of Claremont, who was 14 at the time of the accident. The terms of his part of the settlement were not divulged. The overall lawsuit accord was reached in January as the case was about to go to trial.
In December, Feeney rejected arguments by attorneys for the companies when they maintained they had no obligation to provide lighting on the freeway because they have the same civil immunities as Caltrans, which was previously dismissed as a defendant in the case.
"Unlike Caltrans, which had no duty to light its streets, (the companies) are contractors that have a duty to use reasonable care to prevent damage to persons whom they may reasonably expect to be affected by their work," Feeney wrote. "Any immunities Caltrans enjoyed regarding liability for negligence do not extend to (the firms, which) remain liable for negligence in performing their contracted work."
Feeney had also denied previous motions by attorneys for the two companies to dismiss all claims against them, finding that there were triable issues regarding whether an alleged lack of sufficient lighting in the area represented a negligently created dangerous condition.
Caltrans contracted with Atkinson, which in turn hired High-Light to provide lighting for the renovation work known as the High-Occupancy Expansion Project. Feeney signed a judgment Nov. 18 formally relieving Caltrans of any liability in the case.
The crash occurred on a highly traveled stretch of the freeway, the suit stated. The asphalt shoulder and the slow lane were closed off, leaving drivers such as Armenta with no safe place to walk if they had problems with their cars, the suit brought in September 2017 alleged.
Under those circumstances, a stranded motorist such as Armenta had no safe alternative but to either stay in his car in one of the four open lanes and risk being struck from behind, or leave his truck and be vulnerable to being hit by other vehicles, the suit stated.
Armenta initially stayed in his truck, but decided to leave and head to a gas station by walking to the Kellogg Drive off-ramp, the suit stated. He was able to cross all the westbound lanes while carrying a gas can, but was fatally struck in the unlit median center by a driver who fled, according to the lawsuit.