Family seeking $22 million for KSBY manager’s death

August 12, 2014

text cliffs 2By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The family of a KSBY sales manager who was struck and killed by a vehicle in Shell Beach is seeking $22 million in damages.

On Nov. 19, 2011, Tricia Rittger parked in a lot across from the Cliff’s Resort. While she was crossing Shell Beach Road on her way to meet friends at the resort, the vehicle struck and killed her.

Rittger’s husband Aaron Rittger filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family against the City of Pismo Beach and the Cliffs Resort, claiming his wife’s death could have been prevented had the resort owners adhered to a conditional use permit that limited parking. The city settled with Rittger’s family, paying out $1.5 million, even though Pismo Beach officials said they did not believe the city was liable for the death.

The Cliffs Resort, though, has gone to trial with Rittger’s family, and the case is ongoing in San Luis Obispo Superior Court. Aaron Rittger is requesting that the jury vote to award the family $22 million for funeral costs, loss of income, court costs and general damages.

Last week, a witness in the trial testified that Rittger was walking with her head bowed and her arms bent in front of her just prior to the crash. Alicia Lewis, who was walking behind Rittger when the accident occurred, said it looked like Rittger was text messaging at the time of the accident.

On Thursday, Judge Barry LaBarbera officially admitted two photos of the victim’s cell phone, taken after the accident, as evidence in the trial. The photos of Rittger’s phone display a text message conversation with the friend she was meeting at the club.

The text conversation between Rittger and Sarah Johnson, Rittger’s friend, began at 6:49 p.m. on the evening of the accident. A Pismo Beach dispatcher received the 911 call regarding the accident about one minute later at 6:50 p.m.

At 6:49 p.m., Johnson texted Rittger, “We just got here.”

Her next message, which was incomplete and never sent, said, “I’m walking across,” according to photos submitted to the court.

Johnson then messaged Rittger twice after the accident, unaware of what had occurred.

texts cliffsAt 7:01 p.m., Johnson wrote, “Are you okay?”

At 7:15 p.m., Johnson texted, “I’m starting to worry. :(“.

An attorney for Rittger’s family argued that the Cliffs Resort is at fault for Rittger’s death because the hotel violated its conditional use permit.

A small parking lot intended for employee use is located on the east side of Shell Beach Road, across from the hotel. When the Cliffs first opened in the 1980s, it received a conditional use permit from the city that only allowed hotel employees to park in the eastern lot.

Ryan Harris, the plaintiff’s attorney, claims the Cliffs put Rittger in danger by allowing her to park her car in the prohibited lot, which required her to cross Shell Beach Road where there is no crosswalk or warning sign.

Darren Epps, the attorney representing the Cliffs, is arguing that crossing Shell Beach Road does not actually pose much danger. Epps summoned a traffic engineer who backed his claim and has contended that the city did not view the crossing as a danger, either.

For years, city officials did not enforce the conditional use permit requirements. In several letters sent to the city requesting to know if the resort was in compliance with its zoning and conditional use permit requirements, city officials responded with letters that either noted no issues or in one case an issue with a walkway to the beach.

Additionally, city officials considered putting in a crosswalk on Shell Beach Road but deemed it unnecessary, a former city engineer testified.

Some resort employees admitted to bypassing hotel policy and parking their cars in the resort’s main lot. At times, that resulted in visitors being “forced” to use of the restricted lot, Rittger’s attorney said.

The trial resumes at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Rittger’s attorney has already rested his case, and Epps is expected to conclude his case Tuesday.

It is unclear whether jurors will reach a verdict in the next few days because LaBarbera is scheduled to be absent from court for much of the week.

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SanSimeonSam

I want to be on two juries…

1) This law suit against the city and Cliffs

2) the law suit against the Ritgers for frivolous lawsuits that cost taxpayers money


Your greed is showing and it is not becoming at all


Text that one….


Pelican1

Geez, next Aaron will run for county supervisor.


roxy756

Condolences to the Rittger family and to the innocent driver of the car who hit and killed her. Victims for sure. But the City of Pismo Beach and the Cliffs Resort did not contribute to this tragedy. Seriously…texting while crossing a dark November street is, …well, you fill in the blank!


unlisted

Umm… In addition to J walking, I wonder how long it will be before Rittger gets blamed for violating the conditional use permit by parking in the employee parking lot?


Perhaps the driver should sue her family and estate for the emotional distress of having someone step in front of their car without warning? Her parents should be sued as well for not telling her to look both ways before crossing a street.


Only the attorneys win!


Pelican1

Once you get involved with bloodsport litigation, you can not only get drunk on your own greed but start to believe your own lies.


sloyal

(1st, condolences to Rittger family) – Lawyer should be ashamed of themselves preying on a grieving family like this. Props to Cal coast for being the ONLY one on this story THIS deep. And TALK ABOUT evidence…I literally had to wipe my eyes like a cartoon when I saw that screenshot. It literally says “I’m walking across….” What else does any normal sane person need? 22 mil? Un-friggin real. So hoping, praying, this jury aint that dumb.


JamesD

Don’t put all the blame on the slimy lawyer and greedy husband if money is awarded. It’s the 9 out of 12 who are just as much to blame. I think the person who hit Tricia Rittgers should counter sue for the same amount for their pain and emotional suffering for Tricia Rittgers Careless action.


shelworth

To the victim; sorry you got killed, to the family; CHA-CHING! To quote a great politician; “never waste a good crisis”.


Cindy

Cha-Ching is right. When are people going to learn to take responsibility for themselves? Some people simply have NO SHAME……


kayaknut

They don’t need too, the government will take care of them for their entire life.


HarryMalone

It is called “J” walking. If you cross the road in other than a marked crosswalk then you are at fault period!


kayaknut

Don’t I remember something about at any intersection there is always an implied crosswalk regardless if it is marked, or unless signage prohibits it. Aren’t there just other rules that apply when the crosswalk is marked as opposed to unmarked. But yes, in this case since it was not near an intersection so J walking is right. How many of us have crossed a street in the middle instead of walking “all the way” to the corner to cross? Then again we hopefully don’t have our heads in our phones when we are crossing.


topper01

California Vehicle Code 21954 (a) Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway so near as to constitute an immediate hazard.


Chena Cat

If The deceased had been following basic common sense in crossing the street, she would have noticed that the driver did not see her, and stopped, letting the unsuspecting driver safely pass by, and she to safely cross the street….and be alive today.