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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 7th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 14

City rejects legal claims filed by family of woman killed by Santa Maria Area Transit bus

By KASEY BUBNASH

Santa Maria city officials recently rejected several claims filed by the family of a woman who was hit and killed by a city bus in April.

Santa Maria resident Veronica Perez, 43, was seriously injured when she was hit by a Route 7 Santa Maria Area Transit bus just before 6 p.m. on April 2.

The bus was headed west on East McCoy Lane when it collided with Perez near the corner of Caballero Lane, according to Mark van de Kamp, public information officer for the Santa Maria City Manager’s Office.


CABALLERO AND MCCOY
Santa Maria resident Veronica Perez, 43, was seriously injured when she was hit by a Route 7 Santa Maria Area Transit bus near the corner of East McCoy and Caballero on April 2. She died on April 8.
FILE PHOTO BY COURTESY OF THE SANTA MARIA POLICE DEPARTMENT

Perez was cycling in the bike lane on McCoy when she was hit, van de Kamp said in a media statement on April 3. She was taken by helicopter to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where she died on April 8 due to injuries caused by the collision.

The Santa Maria Police Department’s traffic bureau was still investigating the incident in May, and van de Kamp said the department recently forwarded its traffic collision investigation report to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office for review.

Van de Kamp said that he is unaware of any criminal investigation into the bus driver. District Attorney Joyce Dudley wrote in an email to the Sun that she could not comment on the case due to active investigation.

The Perez family filed four legal claims with the city of Santa Maria immediately following the incident, according to Ruben Ruiz, a Ventura-based accidents and injuries attorney representing the Perez family. Each of the claims, which Ruiz said were filed on behalf of Perez’s husband and three children, exceeded $10,000.

The city formally rejected the claims in a letter on May 25, Ruiz said. Claims are commonly rejected in such cases, he said, and typically serve as the legal step just before filing a lawsuit.

Ruiz said he fully expected the rejection, and he and his clients now have six months to file a formal complaint through the court system.

“If, and when,” the Perez family files a lawsuit, Ruiz said, his clients will be seeking monetary compensation for the unexpected loss of their mother and wife. A specific amount of damages has not been decided.

Ruiz said his investigation—experts from his office recently reviewed some available information on the incident—is currently on hold. His team, he said, is still waiting to review the Santa Maria Police Department’s report, which is not currently available because of the district attorney’s active investigation.

“In a situation like this,” Ruiz told the Sun, “our goal is to hopefully try to figure out what went wrong and work with the city to prevent it from happening in the future and prevent others from getting hurt.”

Assistant City Attorney Philip Sinco said the city formally rejected the claims because of its contract with First Transit, an Ohio-based company that operates and maintains Santa Maria Area Transit buses.

The city’s contract with First Transit, Sinco said, states that First Transit will provide the city with defense and indemnity in any cases of negligence caused by First Transit drivers. Essentially, Sinco said, First Transit agreed to provide legal counsel and pay any damages on behalf of the city in lawsuits caused by First Transit or its employees.

“We don’t believe we’re responsible for this,” Sinco told the Sun.

Sinco said he did not know if the First Transit bus driver involved in Perez’s death was still working with the company, and he said he could not comment on the district attorney’s investigation into the incident.

First Transit did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash can be reached at kbubnash@santamariasun.com.




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