A jury has determined that a trucking company and one of its drivers should pay $150 million in Los Angeles wrongful death damages to 13-year-old Kylie Asam who watched her family burn to death in a fiery crash four years ago. According to an ABC news report, jurors delivered the verdict after three days of deliberations finding the truck driver, Rudolph Ortiz, negligent for parking on the side of the freeway in the early morning darkness without leaving a light on or even having emergency reflectors. Jurors found Ortiz and his employer, Watsonville-based Bhandal Bros. Trucking, jointly liable.
Truck Driver was Negligent
Kylie was only 9 years old when she and her 11-year-old brother managed to escape from their family’s SUV after it struck and got caught under a big rig parked on the shoulder of the Los Angeles Interstate 210. They watched helplessly as their parents and older brother got burned alive in the vehicle, which was engulfed in flames. The verdict included $8.75 million the jury awarded to Blaine who committed suicide on his mother’s birthday before the trial began. The money will go to Kylie, but will be placed in a trust until she turns 18.
The lawsuit had alleged that Ortiz pulled his truck over to sleep ignoring written warnings that he could stop there only in case of emergency. Defense attorneys argued during the trial that Ortiz stopped to take medication for a severe headache, which constituted an emergency. Defense attorneys also contended that the truck driver did not break the law because he was parked on the dirt to the right of the shoulder. Jurors agreed that Kylie’s father was also negligent, but also determined that his actions were not a substantial factor in causing his family’s deaths.
It is impossible to fathom the depth of grief experienced by the lone survivor of a traumatic event. There is no question that a survivor would rather forego millions in compensation from a wrongful death case in order to have his or her family back again. This family was on its way to a Thanksgiving celebration four years ago when the tragic truck accident happened. This decision comes weeks before the fifth Thanksgiving this child will spend without her family. Tragic! Our thoughts and prayers are with young Kylie and we wish her the very best for a bright and happy future.