//$42K paid related to 2014 Tucson crash of Cochise jail transport van

$42K paid related to 2014 Tucson crash of Cochise jail transport van

By Terri Jo Neff

CCSO detention officer failed to yield right-of-way, car flipped
final payment settles claim demanding $300,000

BISBEE- A civil lawsuit filed with the Cochise County Superior Court in the aftermath of a 2014 crash between a Cochise County sheriff’s transport van and a Kia Sorento was dismissed last month after $35,051 was paid to the driver of the Kia. Judge Karl Elledge signed the dismissal order December 13 at the request of attorneys for the county’s insurer and Melissa Vasquez, who was at the wheel of the Kia when the jail van struck the car with such force that the Kia flipped onto its passenger side.

According to aTucson Police accident report, detention officer Armando Cruz was driving a 2006 Chevrolet Van on June 20, 2014 when he exited the Pima County jail in Tucson with a female inmate. Cruz drove across westbound Silverlake Road and was making a left turn onto eastbound Silverlake when he failed to yield to oncoming traffic. The van struck the Kia on the driver’s side, causing the car to spin, rollover on its right side, and slide several feet on the center median before coming to rest.
Vasquez, her daughter Rosella Enriquez, and two year old grandson were in the Kia. Tucson Fire Department got the vehicle back on its wheels and checked on the occupants. Cruz and the van passenger were uninjured but the women in the car were later treated at Tucson Medical Center. Cruz was issued a citation by Tucson Police and paid a fine for failure to yield the right of way.
The $35,051 payout, which was negotiated by the Arizona Counties Insurance Pool and billed to the county’s risk management department, is the third financial outlay by the county related to the 2014 accident. The earlier payments included $2,000.00 to Enriquez who was in the front passenger seat, and $5,373.08 to Vasquez’s husband Jose who co-owned the Kia.

Documents filed with the court by Vasquez’s attorney Mike Moldoveanu of Zanes Law show Vasquez obtained medical treatment for several months for injuries she claimed were caused by the accident. The county rejected ademand submitted by Vasquezin November 2014 to settle her claims for $300,000. Then in June 2015 Vasquez filed the civil court action, naming detention officer Cruz and the county as co-defendants.
The lawsuit contended the accident caused Vasquez “severe personal injuries” as well as emotional distress and medical bills due to negligence by Cruz for causing the accident. Vasquez alleged that the county – as Cruz’ employer – was also liable under the legal concept ofrespondeat superior. The county’s insurer provided legal representation for Cruz because he was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.
Judge Elledge dismissed the case “with prejudice” meaning Vasquez cannot file future claims for the same complaint. The parties had been scheduled to appear before Elledge on January 12 for a trial setting conference.
Contact reporter Terri Jo Neff at 520-508-3660 and cjw_media@yahoo.com