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Teenage Girl Awarded $150 million in Wrongful Death Lawsuit after losing parents

On Friday, October 25th, a young girl from Riverside, CA, was awarded $150,750,000 by jurors at the close of a wrongful death civil trial. Riverside is a smaller city located approximately 60 miles east of Anaheim, CA. The award could be the largest of its kind in US history for a case of this nature. The girl was the sole survivor of a tragic automobile crash in November of 2009 that ultimately claimed the lives of three of her family members.

13-year-old Kylie Asam was riding with her parents and brother in the family’s SUV in the early morning darkness through the California hills. Without warning, the SUV came upon a tractor trailer parked protruding from the road’s shoulder with it lights off and crashed into it violently. At the time of the accident, Kylie was only 9 years old. She and her then 11-year-old brother Blaine were able to climb through a window of the crumbled SUV to escape the fiery wreckage.

Kylie’s parents died at the scene of the crash. While her brother, Blaine, was able to climb away from the wreckage, he was hospitalized long-term and eventually died several months later due to complications from the injuries he sustained in the crash. The wrongful death suit was filed in October of 2011 by Kylie’s grandfather, David Asam, on her behalf.

Trucking Operators Held Liable

The driver of the tractor trailer, Rudolph Ortiz, and his employer, Watsonville-based Bhandal Bros. Trucking Inc. were found jointly liable for the accident and the three resulting deaths. Apparently, Ortiz had parked the truck on the right shoulder to sleep.

The plaintiff’s attorney argued this point and noted that the action was clearly unlawful, as multiple posted signs existed along the roadway warning drivers that stopping anywhere along that stretch of road was prohibited except in emergencies. An emergency stop would have required Ortiz to activate his hazard lights and lay down emergency roadside reflectors, per DOT law, thus making the stopped truck visible from a distance.

“He violated simple highway rules and as a result three members of the community are dead,” explained Asam’s attorney.

The driver of the SUV, Michael Asam, never saw Ortiz’s truck in the darkness, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys. The lawsuit alleged that Ortiz’s trailer lights and his emergency flashers were off when the impact occurred. The plaintiffs’ attorneys also said Ortiz never put out his emergency reflectors, which was verified during a traffic investigation. All of the actions were in violation of existing state and federal DOT laws governing tractor trailers and large commercial motor vehicles.

Record Verdict for Orphaned Girl

The jury’s ruling reflected that Ortiz’s choice to stop and failure to deploy emergency reflectors was unlawful, thus making him responsible for the tragic accident. Jurors deliberated for 3.5 days.

The $150.75 million verdict includes $8.75 million the jury awarded to Blaine for damages covering the months of hospitalization between the accident and his death.


CBS News: Jury Awards $150M To Girl, 13, Whose Family Died In Freeway Crash

L.A. Times: Girl awarded $150 million in crash that killed family

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