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Sears Appeals Minibike Settlement : * Lawsuit: The firm asks the state Supreme Court to toss out an $85,000 agreement reached by two co-defendants.

December 26, 1991|FRANKI V. RANSOM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sears, Roebuck & Co. is appealing to the state Supreme Court to block the trial of a lawsuit filed by an Arcadia man whose son allegedly suffered brain damage after colliding with a car while riding a Sears-brand minibike.

In a petition filed with the court Monday, a Sears' attorney contested the settlement reached earlier this month by two other defendants for a total of $85,000. The attorney contended that the settlement was too small, leaving Sears alone facing a potential liability of several million dollars sought by the boy's father, Ken Soffa.

While deciding whether to hear the case, the court can grant or deny a stay of the trial, scheduled for Jan. 2 in Pasadena Superior Court, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The lawsuit, which was filed Feb. 15, 1987, alleges that defective brakes on the motorized Sears bike caused Aaron Soffa, then 13, to collide with a car while riding his bike on Monte Vista Road at Paloma Drive in Arcadia.

Aaron Soffa, now 18, suffers from memory loss and confusion, his attorney, Harry Scolinos, said.

In the civil lawsuit, Soffa also named three others, including the city of Arcadia. He accused the city of failing to place a stop sign or light at the intersection, the homeowner for the hedges blocking the view of the intersection and the driver of vehicular negligence.

Last week, Arcadia city officials approved a $20,000 settlement. The insurance companies for the driver, Allyson Lynne Rogers, settled for $40,000, and homeowner Randy Fowler settled for $45,000.

Earlier this month, a Los Angeles appellate court denied a Sears petition that the other defendants pay indemnity to Sears if it is found liable in the case.

On Monday, Sears attorney Thomas Halliwell filed an appeal in state Supreme Court, attempting to stop the trial and overturn the settlements. In the appeal, he argued that they don't reflect the full liability of Rogers and Fowler in the case, Halliwell said. The city's settlement was not opposed.

"Because of the settlements, we are left on our own to defend the case," he said. "If there's only one defendant, a jury is likely to find us guilty. We're concerned that the defendants who should be there won't be there."

When Sears sold the bike, there were warnings attached stating that it shouldn't be used on the street, Halliwell said.

"Our feeling is that the minibike didn't cause the accident, the plaintiff's carelessness did," he said. "If he had worn a helmet, he would've been less severely injured or not injured at all."

The Soffas' attorney, however, said that Sears should share the bulk of the responsibility because the company had its manufacturer design a less expensive minibike without testing the new brake system.

Although the lawsuit listed $1 million in punitive damages, Scolinos said he will request that the Soffas be awarded $6 million in total damages because the boy will never be able to work. The amount will include costs for the Aaron Soffa's pain and suffering, current and future medical bills and lost earnings, he said.

But the boy's father declined to discuss the case.

"Our concern right now is for him," Ken Soffa said. "We have a lot of things on our mind. We just want to get this thing over with."

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