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Parents Michael and Shannon Asam, along with 14-year-old son Brennen (centre) were killed during the 2009 early morning crash on Interstate 210
A jury has awarded more than $150 million in damages to a 13-year-old girl who watched her family burn to death in a fiery crash on a Southern California freeway.
'It's hard for her to comprehend' the scope of the verdict reached last week in Los Angeles Superior Court, attorney Brian Brandt said Monday about his young client.
The jury found a California trucking company and one of its drivers liable.
Kylie Asam was 9 when she and her 11-year-old brother, Blaine, managed to escape from their family's mangled SUV after it struck and got caught under a big rig parked on the shoulder of Interstate 210 nearly four years ago.
They saw their parents and older brother get burned alive after the vehicle they were trapped in caught fire.
The Asam family were travelling on the Interstate 210 on November 22, 2009, en route to visit grandparents for Thanksgiving, when they struck the back of a big rig truck unlawfully parked in the shoulder. The driver had ignored signs and pulled over to sleep. He did not have any emergency lights on
The verdict included $8.75 million the jury awarded to Blaine, who committed suicide on his mother's birthday, before the trial began, Brandt said.
That money will go to Kylie as her brother's successor-in-interest, but all of the award will be placed in a trust until she is 18, he said.
A jury deliberated for about three days before finding Friday that the truck driver, Rudolph Ortiz, was negligent for parking on the side of the freeway in the early morning darkness without leaving on any light or emergency reflector.
Ortiz and his employer, Watsonville-based Bhandal Bros. Trucking, were found jointly liable.
Asam's wrongful death lawsuit alleged Ortiz pulled over to sleep, ignoring written warnings that stopping there was allowed only in emergencies.
The suit said Ortiz parked on the same shoulder Asam's father tried to reach after he struck debris on the freeway and tried to stop.
The family from Riverside was headed to Oregon to visit relatives for Thanksgiving when the crash occurred on Nov. 22, 2009.
Kylie and her brother Blaine managed to crawl out the window of the family's crumpled SUV - a 2007 GMC Yukon - and escape. Their parents, Michael and Shannon, and her older brother Brennen, 15, burnt to death in te wreck 05 Jan 2006, Detroit, Michigan, USA --- 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali --- Image by © Car Culture/Corbis
During the trial, defense attorneys countered that Ortiz stopped to take medication for a severe headache, which constituted an emergency.
Attorney Raymond McElfish also contended the truck driver broke no law because he was parked on the dirt to the right of the shoulder.
Although California Highway Patrol officers found no debris on the road, Brandt said a dent in the rim of one of the SUV's tires was proof that the SUV hit something.
He said the children flagged down a driver who used a fire extinguisher and shoveled dirt to try to put out the growing fire.
The driver said Ortiz came out of the truck after a second 911 call was made to authorities.
The jury agreed that Asam's father also was negligent, but determined his actions were not a substantial factor in causing his family's deaths.
Kylie Asam now lives with her aunt and uncle in Orange County.
The money will not bring her family back but it sure can afford her to live comfortably for the rest of life. Bless her heart.
150 million dollars is a lot of money but there is no price on the death of your whole family!!! This little girl will never get over losing her whole family, my heart and prayers go out to her and may God keep a close watch over her and guide her through these ruff years to come. I hate stories like this!!! People may look at the fact that she will be rich but I bet anybody that this girl would rather have her family then 150 million dollars, I know I would!!!
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