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L.A. to Pay $765,000 in Crash Where Tree Obscured Stop Sign

March 03, 1988|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to pay $765,000 to settle a lawsuit filed against the city by a Glassell Park family involved in a traffic accident caused by a tree that obscured a stop sign.

Most of the money--$495,000--will be paid to Ingrid Orellana, 21, who is partially paralyzed as a result of the accident. Richard D. Mickelson, the attorney for the family, will receive $255,000, with the remaining $15,000 going to Orellana's mother, brother and two sisters, all of whom were injured in the accident.

Leonor Orellana, the mother, was driving the four children to school on May 13, 1982, when her AMC Matador was struck by a Chevrolet pickup truck about 1 1/2 blocks from their home. The family was heading east on Estara Avenue. The pickup truck, traveling south on Andrita Street, failed to yield at the southbound stop sign on Andrita.

According to a report prepared by the city attorney's office, Tillie Lopez, driver of the pickup truck, did not see the stop sign because it was blocked from her view by a crepe myrtle tree planted in the city-owned parkway by Anna Kennedy, owner of the property adjacent to the parkway. A police report stated that the tree totally concealed the stop sign 90 feet from the intersection and substantially obscured it from 48 to 90 feet away.

In separate settlements, Lopez paid $100,000 to Ingrid Orellana and Kennedy paid $20,000 to the other Orellanas and their attorney, the report said.

In recommending the settlement, the city attorney's office noted that the tree had been trimmed by city crews in 1978 and 1980 because it was blocking the view of the stop sign. Two days before the accident, however, a city inspector found the stop sign to be in "good" condition, making no reference to the tree.

The Orellanas "will be able to demonstrate that the condition of the tree obscuring the stop sign had existed for several years prior to the accident and was known to" the city, Deputy City Atty. Victoria G. Chaney said in the report. "Further, the city's stop sign inspector two days before the accident failed to either note and/or correct the obscured stop sign."

Mickelson, the family's attorney, said that the tree has been removed. He said both the family and the city were eager to reach a settlement.

"Everyone just wanted to resolve it for the sake of Ingrid," he said.

Of the money paid to Ingrid Orellana, $450,000 will be used to buy 30-year U.S. Treasury bonds, according to the agreement. Earnings from the bonds will be used to pay for her medical and other expenses.

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