A Norwalk Superior Court judge has approved a $28 million settlement that the city of Whittier has agreed to pay 19 family members of 61-year-old Margarita Mojarro who was killed by a falling 80-foot tree during her daughter’s 2016 wedding party in Penn Park. According to Whittier Daily News, there was no opposition to the settlement from Stephanie Oviatt, the photographer’s assistant who has filed her own lawsuit against the city, or from West Coast Arborists who were on contract with the city to inspect and trim trees at Penn Park. The arborist is also being sued by the city and 19 family members.
An Incident That Could’ve Been Prevented
The fatal incident that led to these lawsuits occurred the afternoon of Dec. 17, 2016, after the wedding of Patricia and Alvaro Garcia. Wedding photos were being taken at the park when a 70-foot blue gum eucalyptus tree fell on family members causing catastrophic injury and death. Mojarro died at a local hospital. The bride’s 3-year-old niece suffered critical traumatic brain injuries and at least six others suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The lawsuit alleged that the city of Whittier had no policy or procedure in place to inspect the health of its trees and failed to notice evidence of the tree’s serious decline. Lawyers for the family said the tree’s defects had existed for more than a decade before it fell and that this tragedy was completely avoidable.
The city’s attorneys had argued that the arborists contracted by the city trimmed the tree in 2014 and reported nothing to Whittier about any problems with the tree. Mojarro’s husband, Feliciano, is scheduled to receive $2.9 million from the settlement and four of her children are set to receive $3.3 million. Family members said they have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in addition to physical injuries as a result of that incident.
We commend the law firm that obtained this significant settlement for this family. Our hearts go out to the Mojarro family for the tremendous loss and pain they’ve suffered.
Dangers Posed by Eucalyptus Trees
Eucalyptus trees, which are native to Australia, have earned the moniker “widow maker” in that country – for good reason. Eucalyptus trees have shallow roots that don’t go deep enough to bear the weight of the trunk, which could get large and heavy. So, when there is heavy or even moderate wind, there is the risk of the tree falling. Eucalyptus trees must also be pruned annually to control the top growth and their overall height. The tree must be inspected by a certified arborist, ideally annually.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a tree or tree branch because it wasn’t inspected or properly maintained, our experienced California personal injury lawyers can help you secure maximum compensation for your losses.