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Upholds Jury Verdict : Court Absolves Whittier in Boy's Death

January 03, 1988|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

WHITTIER — An appeals court has upheld an earlier jury verdict absolving the city of liability in the death of a child who was killed at a crosswalk nearly four years ago by a teen-age driver.

Although the crosswalk at Lambert Road and Milton Avenue may have been "poorly lit and marked," the driver's inattentiveness was to blame for her striking 7-year-old Abel Garcia, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled Dec. 28.

Two years ago, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury found on a 10-2 vote that the crosswalk was poorly lit, but the jury unanimously absolved the city of liability.

Gary M. Schneider, lawyer for the Garcia family, said he did not expect to appeal the case further.

'Probably the End'

"This is probably the end of it. The jury found that this was a danger, but it ruled that the dangerous situation was not the cause of the accident," Schneider said.

City Atty. J. Robert Flandrick could not be reached for comment.

Schneider said he had asked for $400,000 in compensation from the city, claiming wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The driver, a 17-year-old who was en route to a concert with friends on the night of the accident, was dropped from the proceedings early in the trial. A juvenile, she had neither insurance nor assets, Schneider said.

According to court records, the Garcia boy was in the crosswalk, walking ahead of his mother and two sisters, on the evening of April 26, 1984. The family was on its way to an open house at Evergreen Elementary School, where the boy was a second-grader.

A Toyota truck swerved around a car stopped at the intersection and struck the boy, who died two days later, the records said.

Yellow Lines

The crosswalk was marked by two painted yellow lines. There were no signals or stop signs, but the city said it had a crossing guard on duty during school hours. The nearest street lights were about 100 feet from the intersection.

Schneider had argued that the painted lines only made the crossing more dangerous because "it instilled in pedestrians a false sense of security that an approaching vehicle would yield the right of way."

The lines "had absolutely no effect on the conduct of (the driver)," the appeals court said. It agreed that the lines may have given Garcia a false sense of security but said there was no way of determining how the boy would have acted if there had been no markings.

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