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Wrongful Death Case Awards California Family $2 Million

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A Madera County jury awarded $2 million to the family of a woman killed in an accident at the intersection of Highway 41 and Road 416 on July 5, 2008.On Jan. 27, the jury found that the intersection was a dangerous condition of public property. The verdict ended a four-week Madera County Superior Court trial before Judge James Oakley. The case stemmed from an accident that claimed the life of Suzanna V. Coronado, 31, of Livingston.

Coronado and her husband Michael, who survived the accident, were riding a motorcycle southbound on Highway 41 when Alexander Huerta of Coarsegold pulled out from Road 416 to travel north on 41. He was driving a GMC Envoy pulling a trailer with a vehicle on it. When Michael Coronado came around a curve on the downhill grade, the motorcycle went down because the Huerta vehicle was completely obstructing Coronado's lane.

Coronado's four children and husband sued the State of California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) alleging that the intersection where the accident occurred was in a dangerous condition on the day of the accident and that Caltrans had notice of a lengthy history of broadside-patterned accidents at the intersection.

Prosecuting attorney Paul A. Matiasic of San Francisco noted after the verdict that Caltrans ultimately implemented a safety improvement project at the intersection in the summer of 2009. He claimed that lack of action by Caltrans until the improvements in 2009, despite its knowledge of the significant accident history, was unreasonable.

Caltrans disputed that the intersection was dangerous and vigorously defended its actions leading up to the fix instituted in 2009.Matiasic and Scott Johnson represented the Coronado family. "The Coronado family suffered an immeasurable loss and we are gratified by the jury's finding that the intersection was dangerous and was a substantial factor in causing this accident," said Matiasic.

The jury returned a verdict of slightly more than $2 million, believed to be one the largest personal injury/wrongful death awards in Madera County's history.The jury also found that Huerta bore some responsibility for the accident while unanimously finding that plaintiff Michael Coronado was not negligent.

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