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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SanSimeonSam

Aaron,

Heres the next one. I have it on good authority your wife was drinking a scolding hot cup of coffee from McDonalds at the time of the accident. And it spilled and distracted her texting. Not enough insulation in the cup


chrisinpaso

After reading this story and the previous story detailing the text message on the phone, I am again convinced that I did the right thing in deciding to practice law in Germany rather than the USA. Such a verdict can only result in a legal system in which emotion trumps the sound legal principles. That is why the American is generally considered to be ridiculous in other countries and why we have far more lawyers on a per capita basis than elsewhere. Our Consstitution is one of the greatest legal documents of all time, but since then the American legal system has become a system designed by lawyers for lawyers, end everyone on our society ends up paying the bill through higher insurance premiums and costs for products and services..


Jorge Estrada

My attitude towards lawyers certainly leaves room for the many that serve us well. The cases that are clearly nothing more than a re-distribution of wealth, in my opinion, distorts the intent of our legal system.


Thanks for coming forward with your honest belief and a logical resolve. Your assesment is shared by many others.


Jorge Estrada

Unfortunate for the victim, Bullshit for the public, Payday for the lawyers. The best system that money can buy.


achillesheal

20% of $5M = $1 Million Dollars. Not a bad day for the attorney.


OhHenry

I Think more like 33.-50%.That’s why these lawsuits happen. Lawyers, I wish we just didn’t need them.


Pelican1

Let me guess…the cell phone manufacturer and the cell service provider will be the next on Aaron’s list of litigants.


JB Bronson

Was this the O.J. Simpson Jury?


achillesheal

1 accident in 35 years and a crosswalk must be installed? Whatever happened to following the highway standards to determine whether traffic lights and crosswalks are warranted.


By the way, those flashing light crosswalks make the situation more dangerous as they embolden the pedestrian to cross without any regard for their own safety. It’s only a matter of time before a pedestrian is killed on marsh st in slo by Jamba Juice. They walk across without looking or stopping.


Jury of fools. APPEAL the verdict.


Jorge Estrada

Someone will need to remember this when a family member gets creamed on the Cuesta Grade, the scenic pedestrian corridor.


SanSimeonSam

My opinion, the members of the jury on this one have the combined intelligence of a houseplant


SanSimeonSam

Hey aaron and the ambulance chaser can make a career out of this. Like the guy in the wheelchair a few years back that sued every store in town for ADA violations. Heres your next one. Cell phones have GPS. The cell phone should have known the woman was not smart enough to stop texting while crossing a street and therefore should have shut down the service. If the service was shutdown she might have paid attention to what she was doing and would still be alive today. I want a finders fee for this one Aaron OK ?


achillesheal

Excellent point. The gps of the vehicle should have also known that it would intersect with the cell phone and shut the vehicle down to avoid the fatal colission.


This could be a $500M judgement when all said and done with these deep pockets! Of course, the rest of us will end up paying for this woman’s tragic stupidity.