The family of a mother killed in a California crash won a $10 million jury award against the state transportation department for not building a left-turn lane at the dangerous intersection.

Maria Juana Flores, a 36-year-old mom, was on her way to pick up her children from school. She was stopped at the intersection to make a left turn when another driver, Gilbert Freeth, crashed his truck into her Honda, killing Flores. Freeth’s insurance settled before trial for policy limits of $100,000.

Maria’s husband, Jaime Flores Aguilar, sued the state transportation department, Caltrans, for negligence.

His attorney, Jeremy Fietz, argued that state engineers knew that the intersection was dangerous, evidenced by a plan to make it safer by putting in a left-turn lane. The plan dated back to 1998 but was never completed.

Jaime talked about raising three children alone, including two teenaged daughters who “are growing into womanhood without a mother” and his 7-year-old son who asks him “what happens, Daddy, if you die.”

Caltrans argued that the intersection wasn’t the problem, and the accident was Freeth’s fault for not paying attention when he hit Flores.

The jury agreed with both sides, finding Caltrans responsible for the intersection, but assigning 75 percent of the blame to Freeth, and awarding a total of $10.6 million.

Despite the large award, the family will collect less than a quarter of the money.

The family will receive about $2 million after it is reduced for the percentage of fault, trial costs, and attorneys’ fees, according to Fietz.

Jaime said he “would not want a penny” if his wife were still alive.

“Justice has been done. It’s over,” he said.

By: Sylvia Hsieh

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