The City of Santa Monica, actress Barbra Streisand and movie producer Jon Peters have settled a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from an auto accident involving a Santa Monica municipal bus and a caretaker who worked for Streisand and Peters.
The settlement, which was approved by Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Harry Mock this week, requires the parties to pay $87,500 to the heirs and estate of Paul Zimmerman, 35, who was struck on Dec. 14, 1979, while standing at Ocean Avenue and Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica.
A Santa Monica bus collided with a car driven by Ruth Lozoya, who was employed by Streisand and Peters to take care of their Malibu ranch. Lozoya's car went out of control and hit Zimmerman.
Zimmerman was taken to Santa Monica Hospital, where he remained in a coma for nine months before he died. In the lawsuit filed Nov. 14, 1980, in Santa Monica Superior Court, Zimmerman's heirs and estate claimed that Lozoya and the City of Santa Monica were responsible for his death
Lozoya did not have insurance. The City of Santa Monica and the Zimmerman heirs and estate claimed that Streisand and Peters were responsible for Lozoya because she was working for them at the time. Lozoya had used a gasoline credit card belonging to Streisand shortly before the accident, according to Yvonne Binstock, chief deputy of civil litigation for Santa Monica.
The city filed a countersuit claiming that Streisand and Peters were liable. "Part of Lozoya's duties was that she would have to use the car to purchase flowers for the ranch," said Binstock. She added that the city believed Lozoya was within the scope of her duties as an employee at the time.
Binstock said the city could have been liable for all damages had the case gone to trial because Lozoya was uninsured. Streisand and Peters claimed that Lozoya was not within the scope of her duties at the time of the accident and they tried to have the countersuit dismissed several times. They argued that the accident occurred after Lozoya's regular working hours.
The settlement requires Santa Monica to pay $50,000, Streisand to pay $30,000 and Peters to pay $7,500.
No Admission of Guilt
Lawyers for Peters and Streisand said they settled to avoid a lengthy court battle and that the payments do not represent any admission of guilt. "We paid because of the cost of the defense, the notoriety of the client and to buy our peace," said Bruce Dunn, Streisand's attorney.
Marilyn Smith, an attorney for Peters, said that Lozoya was on her own time and the bus driver was responsible for the accident. "The defendant had no insurance and the city was looking for a deep pocket," Smith said. "I think they were completely off base legally."
Michael Hoberman, a lawyer representing Zimmerman's heirs and his estate, said that the settlement still requires approval by the probate court, but he expects it be approved.
"There was no ultimate determination whether Streisand and Peters were responsible for the action of Lozoya," said Hoberman. "At the time of the settlement, they claimed no and I still claimed yes."
Streisand, the star of several movies, including "Yentl," "Funny Girl" and "A Star Is Born," and Peters, a film producer, lived at the Malibu ranch property at the time of the accident. In a deposition, Streisand described Peters as a "personal manager" and friend. Peters said in a deposition that he sold his portion of the Malibu property to Streisand about a year ago.