APPLE VALLEY — The victim of a July crash on Interstate 15 that was first reported by the Daily Press and resulted in a felony hit-and-run charge against Apple Valley’s finance director is seeking millions in damages from the town, according to a claim filed by her attorney.
Filed on behalf of Lola Espinoza by the Newport Beach-based law firm Bergener Mirejovsky, the claim seeks $2 million in damages, an amount “calculated based on current and future medical treatment and property damage.”
“At this time, the investigation is ongoing, and not all City employees, representatives, agents, and agencies are known,” the claim states. “However, it is believed Marc Puckett was in the course and scope of employment with the City at the time of the incident.”
During the July 20 incident, Espinoza, of Rancho Cucamonga, was driving southbound on I-15 at approximately 60 miles per hour (mph) when her 2011 gray Toyota Prius was hit from behind by a 2011 black Cadillac CTS registered to Puckett.
Just before impact, the Cadillac was traveling “at a speed greater than 60 mph,” according to a California Highway Patrol (CHP) report prepared on Aug. 2, 13 days after the crash and before investigators with CHP’s Rancho Cucamonga office identified Puckett as the driver.
The claim contends Espinoza was “negligently rear-ended by City employee Marc Puckett.”
The Town Clerk’s Office received the claim on Nov. 20, two weeks before the San Bernardino County District Attorney filed a felony charge against Puckett. It was obtained by the Daily Press late Wednesday via a California Public Records Act request.
Espinoza’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. Town officials, meanwhile, have repeatedly emphasized the “alleged incident occurred outside of employment with the Town.”
The Town Council rejected the claim by a 4-0 vote Tuesday — Councilor Barb Stanton was absent — a move that fell in line with staff’s recommendation, town documents show. A civil lawsuit is likely to follow, but court records showed no such filing as of Thursday.
Town spokesperson Gina Whiteside said the Council’s rejection was “consistent with past actions regarding rejected claims.”
“The Town will not provide additional comments on this matter, which could involve potential litigation,” Whiteside said via email Thursday.
Meanwhile, Espinoza was taken to Kaiser Permanente in Ontario for treatment after she complained of injuries to her neck and back, among others.
Espinoza previously told the Daily Press she has not been able to receive cortisone shots for pain in her back because Puckett’s insurance doesn’t cover the costs, adding that she pays out of pocket for massages in lieu of the medical treatment.
Puckett, meanwhile, has denied all requests for comment since August. He has been on paid administrative leave from his Town Hall position since Dec. 7, according to a previous Daily Press report.
Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press