Photo: Jovanna Lugo, 27, was struck and killed by an LAPD officer outside her Sylmar home in April 2010. The $6.6-million settlement is the largest amount the city of L.A. has ever paid to settle a police traffic collision.
The Los Angeles City Council agreed Friday to pay $6.6 million to the family of a woman killed by a speeding police car, the largest amount the city has ever paid to resolve a police traffic collision.
Crashes in which officers are partly or entirely to blame have emerged as an intractable and costly problem for the city. Forced to either settle the lawsuits that commonly arise from the accidents or fight them in court, the city now has spent about $30 million in negotiated payouts and verdicts in about 400 LAPD traffic-related lawsuits over the last decade, according to city records. Dozens of pending cases remain.
"We have no choice," said Councilman Bill Rosendahl.
Amid increasing concern about officers' poor or brazen driving, Los Angeles Police Department officials announced plans this year to improve the way it investigates serious crashes. The department also is looking into whether it should revamp the way it keeps track of and penalizes officers with poor driving skills.
Friday's payment stems from a night in April 2010 when 27-year-old Jovanna Lugo's car was broadsided by a police vehicle driven by Officer Richard Brubaker as she pulled out of her Sylmar driveway. Brubaker and his partner, who were responding to a report of a possible stolen car about two miles away, had not turned on the car's emergency lights and so were not legally allowed to be speeding. Other drivers and a reconstruction of the crash, however, estimated the police vehicle was going about 70 mph, twice the posted speed limit, according to a lawyer for Lugo's family and a confidential city report about the incident obtained by The Times.
Two witnesses insisted the headlights on the police car were turned off as well, the report stated. When asked why the headlight switch was found in the off position, Brubaker said he had turned the headlights off after the crash. The light switch, however, was covered with a layer of undisturbed powder that was released into the car's cabin when the airbags deployed, indicating that no one had touched it after the crash, the report said.
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