A truck driver and a Southern California carrier have been ordered to pay $150 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.
On November 22, 2009, Bhandal Bros. Trucking driver Rudolph Ortiz pulled onto the shoulder of Interstate 210 in Southern California. According to an investigation, Ortiz did not leave on any lights or emergency reflectors.
At that same time, the Asam family was traveling on Interstate 210, in Sunland, from California to Oregon for Thanksgiving.
According an attorney for the Asams, Michael Asam’s vehicle hit debris in the road, causing his vehicle to go onto the shoulder.
Asam’s vehicle slammed into the back of Ortiz’s parked truck and got caught under the truck. The trapped vehicle then caught on fire. Two of the SUV’s occupants, Kylie Asam, 9, and Blaine Asam, 11, were able to escape the fiery wreckage, but their father, Michael Asam, mother, Shannon Asam, 20, and brother, Brennen Asam, 14 were trapped in the wreckage and burned alive.
Prosecuting attorneys said that Ortiz and his employer are jointly liable for the accident, because Ortiz was parked in an emergency -only zone, however, Ortiz’s attorney argued that Ortiz had pulled onto the shoulder of the road to take medicine for a severe headache, which constituted as an emergency and that Ortiz’s truck was on the dirt, to the right of the shoulder.
California Highway Patrol Officers found no debris in the road, U.S. News reported. The Asam’s attorney countered by saying that a dent in the rim of the Asam’s SUV’s front tire was proof that the SUV had struck debris.
In the end, the jury sided with the Asams. The jurors found that Ortiz and Bhandal Bros. Trucking share liability for the crash, and awarded the Asam’s surviving children $150 million.
The money was to be divided between the Blaine and Kylie, but sadly, before trial began, Blaine committed suicide on his mother’s birthday. As her brother’s successor, Blaine’s portion of the settlement will go to Kylie. The finds will remain in a trust until Kylie is 18.