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California Family Wrongful Death Settlement Means Justice For Survivors


SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT ‘S, Tyler Hayden, reported that Verizon has agreed to settle for the  wrongful death of Jose Vega, 49,  for $7 million. Vega, a Santa Barbara Housing Authority employee was fatally injured as a result of a September 23, 2009 auto accident involving Mark Selander, a Verizon employee, who was on the job and driving a Verizon truck the wrong way on Highway 101 when he hit Vega’s minivan head-on. Selander was suffering from a diabetic reaction when he got on the highway causing a six car accident. Verizon knew of Selander’s “condition” but failed to take any action. Selander was also sleep-deprived after working the night shift when the accident occurred.

Our condolences go out to the Vega family and friends.

Applicable California law

Vega’s wife Reyna, children, and grandchildren will share in the settlement proceeds pursuant to the terms of the settlement agreement (see my prior Blog post on California wrongful death law). Under a legal doctrine known as “respondeat superior” (Latin for “Let the superior answer”), an employer is legally responsible for the actions of its employees if the employee is acting within the course and scope of employment. In other words, the employer will  be liable for the employee’s actions while doing his or her job, carrying out company business, or otherwise acting on the employer’s behalf when an incident takes place. The purpose of this rule is fairly simple: to hold employers responsible for the costs of doing business, including the costs of employee carelessness or misconduct. If the injury caused by the employee is simply one of the risks of the business, the employer will have to bear the responsibility. In this case Verizon allowed Selander to continue driving their trucks despite their knowledge of prior diabetic reaction incidents. Depending on the circumstances, Verizon could have been subject to punitive damages( see my prior Blog post on employer liability for punitive damages in California) if their conduct amounted to conscious disregard and gross negligence.

.A settlement or jury award in any wrongful death case is merely an attempt at compensating the injured for their loss. However, the loss of a loved one is devastating and cannot be adequately compensated. Death resulting from an auto accident, truck accident, or work accident requires the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney.