Case details

Family: Semi-truck fatally struck pedestrians in crosswalk





Result type

Not present

death, loss of parental guidance, loss of society, multiple trauma
On Dec. 27, 2010, plaintiffs’ decedent Tiffany Paregien, 28, was walking east on a crosswalk near the intersection of E. Panama Road and S. Union Avenue in Bakersfield with her mother, plaintiffs’ decedent Cynthia Paregien, 55. Antonio Oliva, the operator of a semi-truck that was blocking the eastbound crosswalk, then backed his semi-truck up out of the crosswalk to allow Tiffany Paregien and Cynthia Paregien to cross in front of him. After the Paregiens safely reached the sidewalk on the southeast corner of the intersection, Tiffany Paregien pushed the pedestrian crosswalk button for the northbound crosswalk. They then both waited 18 seconds on the sidewalk before entering the northbound crosswalk. However, when they entered the northbound crosswalk to proceed straight across the street, they were struck by Oliva’s semi-truck that was hauling two produce trailers. Oliva then fled the scene. Tiffany Paregien ultimately died a few hours after the incident, while Cynthia Paregien died at the scene, immediately upon impact. The morning after the incident, the California Highway Patrol discovered that there was a surveillance camera at Mission Bank, located on the southeast corner of the subject intersection, and that this camera recorded the accident. As a result, the CHP immediately viewed and obtained the surveillance footage from the evening of the incident, and, in the days following, the CHP investigated the accident in search of the driver of the semi-truck. After viewing the footage recorded by the camera and an extensive investigation, the CHP determined that Oliva was the driver of the truck. However, after Oliva learned that the CHP had obtained a video of the accident, he confessed for the first time that he had gone through the intersection, but still denied being involved in an incident. Shawn Paregien, by and through his guardian ad litem, Michael Dudley; and Lacey Paregien, by and through her guardian ad litem, Chad Paregien; as well as Shawn and Lacey, acting on behalf of the estate of their mother, Tiffany Paregien, sued Oliva and his employer, Emiliano Perez, who was sued individually and doing business as E&M Trucking. They alleged that Oliva was negligent in the operation of the semi-truck and that Perez was vicariously liable for Oliva’s actions. Cynthia Paregien’s surviving daughter, Heather Edwards, acting individually and on behalf of her mother’s estate, also sued Oliva and Perez. On Sept. 27, 2012, the defendants served Shawn Paregien, Lacey Paregien and Heather Edwards each a statutory offer to compromise in the sum of $333,333.33, for a total of $1 million. Heather Edwards ultimately accepted this offer and settled her claims prior to trial. Shawn and Lacey did not accept these offers, and proceeded to trial on an open policy. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Tiffany Paregien and Cynthia Paregien had the right of way while walking north within the crosswalk, and that Oliva was negligent in the operation of his semi-truck while in the course and scope of his employment. Counsel also contended that Oliva knew he had hit the pedestrians and then decided to flee the scene, consciously disregarding the safety of another, thereby constituting malice. On the eve of trial, after denying liability for more than two years, defense counsel admitted that Oliva was negligent, but contended that Tiffany Paregien was also negligent by failing to be aware of her surroundings, which contributed to her own death. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert opined that the pedestrians were exhibiting risk-taking and unpredictable behavior at the time they were struck in the crosswalk by not paying attention to their surroundings. The expert testified that Tiffany Paregien, as well as Cynthia Paregien, should have seen Oliva’s semi-truck prior to impact due to the size, and visual and audio cues of the truck. Defense counsel contended that Oliva did not see the pedestrians in the northbound crosswalk at any time and did not know he was involved in the incident, in part because the radio installed on his dashboard blocked his view and created a blind spot. Counsel also contended that Oliva could not feel that he had run over the two pedestrians because his semi-truck had a very rough and jerky ride. In addition, defense counsel sought to admit the toxicology report for Tiffany Paregien, which documented that she had high levels of methamphetamine in her system at the time of the incident. However, plaintiffs’ counsel filed a motion in limine to exclude the toxicology report, which the court granted based on the Mission Bank surveillance video., Cynthia Paregien died immediately upon impact at the scene of the incident and was survived by her daughter, Heather Edwards. However, Edwards settled her claims against the defendants prior to trial, so her mother’s damages were presented to the jury. Tiffany Paregien sustained multiple blunt force trauma and was transported to Kern Medical Center, but died in the hospital’s operating room a few hours after the incident. She was survived by her two young children, Shawn Paregien and Lacey Paregien. Shawn and Lacey sought recovery of wrongful death damages. However, prior to verdict, they waived any claim for economic damages and sought recovery of only non-economic damages related to the death of their mother, Tiffany Paregien. Despite the court granted the plaintiffs’ motion to exclude the toxicology report on Tiffany Paregien, it did allow defense counsel to discuss Tiffany Paregien’s methamphetamine use as it related to the relationship with her children and the alleged non-economic damages. Defense counsel discussed Tiffany Paregien’s history of methamphetamine use during his opening statement, but, notably, the defense’s sole witness to discuss this evidence was unavailable at the time of trial. Alternatively, defense counsel sought to read from the witness’ deposition transcript. However, plaintiffs’ counsel objected on the grounds that defense counsel’s questioning during the deposition failed to properly lay foundation of the witness’ knowledge of Tiffany Paregien’s use of methamphetamine. As a result, the court sustained plaintiffs’ counsel’s objections, and defense counsel was unable to present any evidence of Tiffany Paregien’s methamphetamine usage at trial. Throughout the trial, defense counsel challenged the value of the relationship between Tiffany Paregien and her children. For example, counsel presented evidence that Tiffany Paregien moved with her children nine times in eleven years, lived in trailer parks many times and did not work. Defense counsel also presented evidence that the decedent’s son, Shawn, was removed by Child Protective Services from Tiffany Paregien’s custody for a period of seven months because of poor living conditions, which included a trailer that lacked plumbing, running water and electricity. Thus, defense counsel argued that Tiffany Paregien’s two children were financially more stable and secure than when they lived with their mother. Defense counsel further argued that any damages that may be apportioned to Lacey, who was 4 months old at the time of the incident, should be less than any damages apportioned to Shawn, who was 11 years old at the time of the incident.
Superior Court of Kern County, Bakersfield, CA

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