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.

Get breaking news first, like CalCoastNews on Facebook.


Loading...
SuperDave

The greedy husband, and the leech like family members are sad- all the way to the bank! If figures a woman that did this moronic jay-walking was a big shot at KSBY. No wonder they always played up their connection to the event. They like the concept of rewarding stupidity. Shame on the family for going after the resort. Choke on that money!


obispan

Pismo’s looking smart to settle @1.5 million with the deep pockets rule. You can walk out into the middle of the street, be 99% at fault, and those with the money must pay everything. Why can’t the little girl with kidney cancer sue somebody and her family cash in? Not right, but at least she didn’t walk in front of a car.


obispan

Civil trials should be decided by a judge, not a jury. Probably most criminal trials as well. Disregard rules about crossing streets drilled into me by my parents as early as I can remember and now it’s somebody else’s fault. A European friend arrived at the start of the OJ trial and was amazed at how our system “works”. Basically it “works” for the lawyers and their clients at everybody else’s expense. Ka-ching!


Mr. Holly

Only problem with this idea is that the judge may have been an ambulance chaser prior to sitting on the bench. It’s a pretty tight fraternity.


Pelican1

With all due respect, the jury award should have been….$0.00. The taxpayers owe this family NOTHING, nor do the businesses. SHE chose to step off the curb while texting.

I’m appalled.


Mariposa

A civil defense attorney has stated that, in California, the plaintiff in a civil suit can be 99% at fault and still win their lawsuit. There you go.


NorthCountyGuy

Just another deep-pockets rip-off.


JamesD

I slipped and fell in my bathtub. I aim going to sue the maker of the bathtub because it was

slippery when you added water and soap. There was no warning sticker advising me of that!


shelworth

Cha-ching.


nurse1

So you are texting and walk out in front of a car (your own fault) and your family gets compensated? What about the poor unsuspecting driver? Sorry for all involved but at what point does anyone accept personal responsibly?


SLOBIRD

Not in this day and age! There is no sense of responsibility in our society today, only entitlements!


Justducky

I’m afraid the news has not been very clear about this. I know someone on the Jury. The key witness to the accident who was walking behind her said that the victim crossed the North bound lane with her head down. We can assume she was texting at that point. She stopped in the median and looked to her right at the on coming car and quickened her pace (she was wearing high heels). When she was struck she was hit on the passenger side of the car, not the drivers side which means she ran in front of the car thinking she could make it across in time. The driver never hit the brakes until he felt the car hit her. Apparently, even though she ran in front of his car, he did not see her. It was dark outside with dimly lit streetlights.


The bottom line that most news article seem to leave out is that she was not texting when she was hit and was actually looking where she was going. She made an error in judgment…a big error in judgment!


moto1965

So why is everyone else paying for that error?


OnTheOtherHand

It is possible that the “poor innocent driver” wasn’t completely legally innocent either. California law gives pedestrians the right of way in most circumstances. If the driver had the opportunity to see and avoid her, he had the duty to do so. I don’t know whether he was speeding or not paying enough attention or whether she appeared in the road so quickly he couldn’t have avoided her. The jury got more information on the subject than we did. I am inclined to accept their judgment on distribution of fault pending more facts.


Justducky

Thank you for that. The jury did have more facts that have been published and there were some intelligent people on there.


Slowerfaster

FINALLY …a cogent comment that does not blame the victim.

Pedestrians are afforded more protections, more ‘rights’, because inevitably they are more at risk.

Should Mrs. Ritger have been more aware, more diligent in the situation ? Of course. That does not absolve others from exercising due care.

What if the person that was unexpectedly in the road had been a child, or a senile elder ? Would these same economic tribalists ballyhoooing their weird interpretations and theories ( without all relevant facts ) then be so nasty in their remarks ?


Seems that the obvious solution escapes everyone in this case: There should be NO parking allowed across the street from what can be a congested thoroughfare.

Cliff’s and the other businesses along that stretch are rich enough to afford other, safer contingencies.


moto1965

Next time im downtown ill make sure I drive around the block fifty times until I find a spot in front of the store I want to go to or else I risk crossing a congested thoroughfare.


Oh and I am rich (hypothetically) so therefore I should have to build a parking structure right next to my business to protect everyone from having to cross a street…oh wait that wont work, there are no cross walks and lighted signals in a parking structure, someone might get hit while not paying attention.


whatisup

I agree with Slowfaster 100%. The idea that the Cliff’s could ignore the requirements for its permit issued by the City for that parking lot and the fact the City never enforced the permit it required is a big issue. There is a liability here, otherwise the permit process would absolutely be meaningless. They both have SOME liability for failing to follow and enforce the permit, respectively. The Jury was thoughtful in their judgment. There was many days of testimony and undoubtedly there are many facts that the Jury had that were never reported in the media.


1 2 3