Case details

Officer’s unsafe speed caused pedestrian’s death, family claimed





Result type

Not present

brain, brain injury, fracture, head, neck, skull, traumatic brain injury
On June 11, 2012, plaintiff’s decedent Kristle Clowers, an unemployed 25 year old, was wearing a dark tank top and denim shorts while walking barefoot in the middle of the northbound lane on Fresno Coalinga Road (also known as State Route 145), in Coalinga. She was under the influence of methamphetamine. At around 11 p.m., Clowers was near El Dorado Avenue, about five miles east of West Side Freeway (also known as Interstate 5), when a patrol vehicle operated by Kurt Rossi struck her in the back of the legs. Clowers subsequently died at the scene. The California Highway Patrol ruled that Clowers’ death was an accident because she was walking on the highway. It also found Clowers to be the primary cause of the accident, with Rossi listed as an associated cause. Rossi was never given a ticket for speeding or charged with vehicular manslaughter. He still works for the sheriff’s office. Robert Candray, who was acting as the guardian ad litem for the decedent’s two minor daughters, plaintiffs Haley Clowers and Julianna Clowers, sued Rossi and Rossi’s employers, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department and the county of Fresno. The decedent’s family alleged that Rossi was negligent in the operation of the patrol vehicle and that the county and sheriff’s department were vicariously liable for Rossi’s actions, as his employer. Prior to trial, the plaintiffs dismissed the county and the sheriff’s department from the case with prejudice. Thus, the matter continued against Rossi only. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Rossi was traveling at over 90 mph on the dark, rural highway. Counsel also contended that the decedent was admittedly walking on the wrong side of the road, as pedestrians are supposed to walk facing traffic, but argued that Rossi could have avoided the decedent, if he had followed the posted 55 mph speed limit. Plaintiffs’ counsel noted that two motorists saw the decedent walking that night on South El Dorado Avenue and were able to avoid her. The first motorist was traveling 60 to 65 mph and only just missed the decedent after a passenger yelled “look out.” The other motorist, who was headed in the opposite direction, testified that the decedent was walking on the edge of the road. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that the decedent was known to be a walker and that deputies would often see her walking on county roads and give her a ride home. Counsel also contended that Rossi, as a 19-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, should have been familiar with the highway. In addition, counsel contended that testimony revealed that Rossi was not responding to an emergency call when he hit the decedent and that Rossi was headed to Five Points to look for traffic offenders. Rossi admitted he was speeding. However, defense counsel argued that regardless of Rossi’s speed, it would have been impossible for anyone to see the decedent on the night in question. Counsel contended that the decedent had three times the lethal level of methamphetamine in her body, was oblivious to the traffic, walked with her head down, had her hair in her face, and never acknowledged when cars were near her. Plaintiffs’ counsel noted that the decedent had 296 nanograms per milliliter of meth in her body., Kristle Clowers hit the hood of the patrol car and went airborne. She suffered a fractured neck and skull, as well as a brain injury. She subsequently died at the scene. She was survived by her two minor daughters, Haley Clowers, age 13, and Julianna Clowers, age 10. The decedent’s daughters sought recovery of $5 million in wrongful death damages. Defense counsel contended that $100,000 should be given to each daughter so that they could attend Fresno State in the future.
Superior Court of Fresno County, Fresno, CA

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