Almanac Staff Writer
A settlement is at hand in a wrongful death lawsuit over the November 2010 death of Los Altos Hills 47-year-old bicyclist Lauren Ward after her collision with a tractor-trailer truck at Alpine Road and Interstate 280, according to an attorney with the county counsel's office in San Mateo County.
There are a few details to be worked out, but "there's a confidential settlement between the trucking company and the family," Deputy County Counsel David Levy told the Almanac.
The county was involved because Ms. Ward's family had sued the trucking company, Randazzo Enterprises Inc. of Castroville, and Randazzo had turned around and sued San Mateo County and the state Department of Transportation on the grounds that the intersection was unsafe, Mr. Levy said.
Pending is the county's motion for a summary judgment -- a resolution that would bypass a trial -- and Randazzo withdrew its suit, Mr. Levy said. "There's no way this case should be heard by a jury," Mr. Levy said. "They settled and they agreed to cut (the county and Caltrans) loose. We were likely to prevail."
While the state of California is responsible for the design of this intersection, the county is responsible for its upkeep, including striping and pothole repair, Mr. Levy said. "There was absolutely zero evidence that there was any problem with the surface of the roadway," he said.
The Ward family had filed its own suits against the county and Caltrans, but had no objection to the summary judgment -- in effect withdrawing their suits when Randazzo did, Mr. Levy said.
Such lawsuits tend to go after defendants with deep pockets, Mr. Levy said. The county fought back, in part to burnish its image. "We didn't cause this accident. We don't want people to keep on suing us, (to get the impression) that we're a soft touch."
The man driving the truck, 44-year-old Gabriel Manzur Vera, had been involved in two other fatal accidents in which he was found not to be at fault.
In December 2003, a woman died after her vehicle crossed the center line on Highway 1 near Moss Landing and collided head-on with Mr. Vera's truck, according to a California Highway Patrol account.
In August 2007, a bicyclist died as a result of a collision with the right side of Mr. Vera's truck as it was making a turn at an intersection in the city of Santa Cruz, according to another CHP account.