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Farm Workers' Families to Get $2 Million in Crash

October 12, 2002|From Associated Press

The families of 13 farm workers who were killed and two others who were injured in 1999 when their van crashed on their way home from picking tomatoes in California will receive nearly $2 million, the Mexican government said Friday.

Officials in Mexico City handed out symbolic checks from a ruling by a U.S. judge earlier this year.

"The life of these people will change because they are from the countryside and dedicate themselves to agriculture," said attorney Robert Perez. "They depended a lot on the money that comes from the United States."

Judge Stephen Webster ruled that the families of 13 people killed in the accident and two survivors were eligible for workers' compensation claims and death benefits. The decision exempted the workers from the state's "going and coming" rule that prevents commuters from collecting workers' compensation benefits. The judge said the survivors could collect workers' compensation because they were required to use the labor contractor for transportation, and both the labor contractor and grower benefited from the transportation they were provided.

The workers were headed home when their van slammed into a truck making an illegal turn near the tiny community of Five Points, southwest of Fresno. The majority had been riding on wooden benches. The crash inspired a California law that requires farm worker vehicles to have seat restraints along with factory-made seats instead of wooden benches.

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