$1,400,000 :: Exposito v. State of Calif.

SETTLEMENT : Concrete slab fell off parking structure during earthquake and killed college student

On October 1, 1987, a severe earthquake shook the entire Los Angeles area. The quake measured a 6.1 on the Richter Scale and struck at 7:42 a.m. just as area residents headed towards work and school classes. The earthquake and its aftershocks shuddered throughout the city, causing falling glass and debris that killed six people. Lupe Elias-Exposito, 21, was listed among those killed in the disaster.

Elias-Exposito was a California State Los Angeles honor student who had been walking to class when she was crushed beneath two tons of concrete that fell from one of the university’s parking structures. Shortly following the incident, the university issued a statement claiming that the death of Elias-Exposito was an accident caused by an act of God. However, the family refuted the claim and hired attorney Lawrence R. Booth of the Law Offices of Booth & Koskoff to represent them in a wrongful death lawsuit against Cal State.

Booth stated that the accident “was not an act of God but one of flagrant negligence.” In a two-page filing, the Plaintiffs claimed that university officials had been negligent in the design, construction, and maintenance of the three-story parking structure. The team cited evidence showing that while the design called for the metal anchors for the concrete slab to be set a minimum of six inches deep, the ones in the parking garage had only been set three inches deep. They then pointed to another slab that had fallen from a different wall in the same parking structure back in 1976. That fallen slab showed no major signs of distress from the earthquake.

“To put it simply,” Booth said of the above evidence, “the earthquake had nothing to do with this panel falling and killing Lupe; the panel was hanging by a thread and could have fallen at any time.

Booth initially sought $2.5 million in wrongful death damages for Leonardo and Olympia Elias, parents of Elias-Exposito, and $2.5 million in emotional distress damages for her sister Rosie Elias-Expositio, who witnessed Lupe’s death. The case ultimately settled out of court for $1,400,000.

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