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SETTLEMENT : Bus crossed over center line and collided with decedent’s car

On November 27, 1997, a 36-year-old man was driving his automobile in Palos Verdes when he was struck and killed by the defendant’s bus when it crossed over the center lane and into the opposing lanes of traffic. The man, an Iranian-born owner and operator of two Downey-area general merchandise stores, was killed in the collision.

The decedent left behind a widow and two children, ages 3 and 6. He and his wife had been married 17 years at the time of his death and were residing in the area as resident aliens. She stepped up after his death to run the family stores but was ultimately forced to close one due to its inability to generate sufficient income.

The decedent’s widow hired attorney Richard B. Koskoff to represent her and her two children in a wrongful death lawsuit based on driver negligence against the transit company responsible for the bus that led to her husband’s untimely demise. Her and the team at Booth & Koskoff contended that over the five years prior to the accident, the decedent was averaging an income between $35,000 and $40,000 per year but that in 1997, the year of the accident, projected earnings were approximately $100,000 with the bulk of that amount occurring in the last five weeks of 1997. The plaintiffs, therefore, concluded that considering this enormous build-up in the end of 1997, the loss of income from the decedent’s death was approximately $3 million with an initial settlement demand made for $6.9 million.

The transit company did not fight the claims of negligence but did try to reduce the complaint amount. They contended that because the plaintiff continued to run the business after the decedent’s death and because she received a substantial income from such operations, the loss of income due to the wrongful death of her partner was approximately $1.25 million based on previous financial records. The judge eventually granted a plaintiff motion in limine to exclude the evidence pertaining to what occurred to the business following the husband’s death.

As with many contentious civil cases, this one was settled just before it went to trial in July 1999. The defendant made a settlement offer of $3 million which the plaintiffs accepted just after jury selection and before opening statements.

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