The widow and child of an Oakdale, Calif., police officer who was killed in a traffic accident last year have reached an $8.5 million settlement in their wrongful-death lawsuit. The family of Paul Katuszonek agreed to the settlement last month with Gold Star Foods Inc. The food distribution and long-haul trucking company employed the driver responsible for the fatal accident in which the officer was killed last year.
The driver, Jose Santos Hermosillo, was charged with vehicular manslaughter, and with gross negligence, a felony. He also was charged, as a truck driver, for driving more hours than allowed under federal guidelines. Hermosillo had been driving for nearly 23 hours with only four and a half hours’ rest when his truck ran into the back of officer Katuszonek’s car at 55 mph.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and contributing to 1,550 deaths. The driver in this case, Hermosillo, had falsified his driver logs to make his drive times comply with the law. Records from the GPS system on the Gold Star truck proved that Hermosillo actually was driving when he reported he was resting. It appears that on the day when he said that he was in his camper berth resting at 7:30 a.m., the driver was actually already on the highway. Four hours later, Officer Katuszonek was on his way to work after dropping off his daughter at his mother-in-law’s home. He stopped on Highway 132 for a road closure and that’s where the tragic accident occurred.
Witnesses reported that Hermosillo’s truck was weaving as it approached the construction zone, and that he never attempted to stop until he was about 100 feet from the Katuszonek car. This was a clear case of driver fatigue. The impact killed Katuszonek instantly. His car propelled the car stopped in front of him into Brian Smith, a state Department of Transportation worker who was flagging motorists to stop. Smith was also injured.
The $8.5-million settlement came just nine days before a jury trial was scheduled to begin. Steven A. Fabbro, a lawyer with offices in Modesto and San Fransico, represented the Katuszonek family in the civil case. He did a very good job for them.
Source: The Modesto Bee
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