Jury finds KSBY employee largely at fault for own death

August 20, 2014
Tricia Rittger

Tricia Rittger

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

A San Luis Obispo jury determined Wednesday morning that a woman struck and killed by a car near a Pismo Beach hotel in 2011 was largely at fault for her own death.

The jury awarded the family of KSBY sales manager Tricia Rittger a $6.7 million sum, but Rittger’s relatives will receive less than one quarter of that amount. The Cliffs Resort and its parent company, King Ventures, must pay the Rittger family about $1.6 million, despite being issued a small portion of the blame for the accident.

“In the scheme of things with all the possibilities, I am pleased with the verdict,” said Darren Epps, The Cliffs’ attorney. “We appreciate the jury’s work on this case. They deliberated for almost two and a half days.”

On Nov. 19, 2011, a vehicle struck and killed Rittger as she was crossing Shell Beach Road on her way to meet friends at the Cliffs Resort.

Tricia Rittger’s husband Aaron Rittger, sued the hotel for $22 million, claiming his wife’s death could have been prevented. Rittger’s attorney Ryan Harris argued that The Cliffs was responsible for the accident because it neglected enforcing its conditional use permit which prohibits visitors from parking in a lot across Shell Beach Road.

On Wednesday morning, the jury distributed blame for the accident, finding Rittger the most at fault among all parties involved. The jury found Rittger 36 percent responsible for her own death.

The driver who collided with Rittger held 34 percent of the responsibility for the crash, the jury determined. The Cliffs and King Ventures each received just 5 percent of the blame.

The jury distributed the remaining 20 percent of the blame to the city of Pismo Beach. For years, the city chose not to enforce the provision of the permitting agreement with the city stipulating that visitors could not park in the lot across the street from the hotel.

Prior to going to trial with The Cliffs, Aaron Rittger also sued Pismo Beach and settled with the city for $1.5 million. Pismo Beach officials said they paid out the settlement to save legal fees and that they did not believe the city was liable.

The jury did not find any malice on the part of The Cliffs or King Ventures and thus awarded no punitive damages. The $6.7 million award to Rittger’s family comprised of $5 million for personal losses and $1.7 million for economic losses.

Though The Cliffs and King Ventures only shared a total of 10 percent of the fault, the defendants must pay nearly $1.6 million to Rittger’s family.

The hotel is responsible for $500,000 of the $5 million awarded for personal losses. It must also pay approximately $1.1 million out of the $1.7 million awarded for the Rittgers’ economic loss because California law stipulates that another party at fault must assume the losses of defendants who cannot pay.

In addition, the Cliff’s and the city are to install a crosswalk with flashing lights to increase pedestrian safety at the scene of the accident. The city previously considered installing a crosswalk but deemed it unnecessary.

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39 Comments

  1. TiaMiaOhMy says:

    Loss of life for a family is horrific. But to sue and go for “deep pockets” is so disgusting! Our society has taken this whole issue of “suing” to a ugly and toxic level. Now-a-days, pushed by blood-sucking, bottom dwelling attorneys – people are sucked into the legal arena to get
    “all they can” because of course that means MORE for the attorney!! No one has to take personal responsibility anymore. Our insurance companies “roll-over” because they don’t want someone to get an attorney and then people are suing for the most ridiculous things because “they can” with NO CONSEQUENCES and the Attorneys who help them have NO CONSEQUENCES either. Our judicial system is messed up! Attorneys need to have more restrictions in regards to filing frivilous lawsuits and THEY should SUFFER monetarily in some way too and more laws put in place to protect us from…..I guess, sadly,…each other from suing each other for stupid things…end of rant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. topper01 says:

    Tricia Rittger’s husband Aaron Rittger, sued the hotel for $22 million, claiming his wife’s death could have been prevented. Yes, your wife’s death could have been prevented, by her NOT texting while walking in traffic. But, that would mean accepting personal responsibility for your action, not looking for others to blame.

    The second way it could have been prevented is to warn all motorists anytime your wife was out of the house. Thereby clearing the streets of all traffic so as to make it safe for her to play with her phone while walking in the street.

    The third way would be to prevent any public businesses on Shell Beach Road.

    So, you see! You are right. Your wife’s death could have been prevented. Law suits like this is why my taxes and insurance is so high. I hope you enjoy your monetary gain off your wife’s death. I will be thinking of you every time I pay my taxes and insurances.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 56 Thumb down 4

  3. ironyman2000 says:

    Fair I suppose, so far as legalities go.
    I’ve had to negotiate from that lot to the place and did find it intimidating.
    BUT
    This woman was into her phone like all idiots are so into their phones. Paying more
    attention to the little handheld device than to where she’s going. Head down texting all the
    way. Reportedly she texted to her friend that she was about to approach the entrance to
    the restaurant. How adolescently moronic can it get?
    Cell phones can be helpful at times but mostly they should be turned OFF unless really
    needed.
    Hate to say this……but the woman brought her own death upon herself.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 40 Thumb down 3

    • Jorge Estrada says:

      As I reel back to the number of deaths and accidents caused by cell phones, I have to ask why the cell phone company wasn’t a deffendant in this case.

      Obviously the use of a cell phone is a different type of personal decision.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3

      • kayaknut says:

        Since Aaron Rittger originally tried to keep the cell phone records out as evidence he likely didn’t want to highlight the cell phone part.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

        • Jorge Estrada says:

          He may of considered a much larger pile of money in the discussion would have a greater battle and he was more interested in getting the insurance companies to just role over and pay, the easiest way to the other side of the street.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    • R.Hodin says:

      Where’s the disdain for the professional negligence of the Cliffs owners, King and Rossi, for ignoring the condition use permit requirements?

      Where’s the disdain for the City of Pismo Beach, for neglecting to enforce the permit conditions?

      Can you give maybe just a little bit of credence to the argument that had the permit requirements been met and enforced, that the most likely scenario would be that Ms. Rittger would have parked on the West side of the road and not had to cross the street?

      It blows my mind that developers like King & Rossi are let off the hook for their negligence which leads to an incident where death is involved, regardless of the particulars (texting, skipping, skateboarding, etc.). The developers/owners created the hazard. They should share the blame.

      Taking out your frustrations about personal habits with technology by attacking the victim is itself a violent act.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 13

      • topper01 says:

        What more could the city have done? Crosswalk – you say. For whom? The employees? Hardly a worthy cause to spend tax payers dollars on when there are so many better uses for that money.
        How about King & Rossi? Should they have towed all illegally parked vehicles? Not good for business, In my opinion.
        Would your opinion been the same if it was a small (unsuccessful) business? or only a “big” business? Thank God her phone survived so that the REAL cause of death could be easily determined.
        Some jurisdictions have passed laws against texting while walking. I think it is about time we do the same to help protect those less intelligent people from hurting themselves. The only victim I see in this is the Driver who has to live with causing a death for the rest of his/her life. He/she is the only one that deserves any monetary rewards! If it was me, I would have filed a lawsuit against Rittger’s estate for emotional duress.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

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