The family of a 49-year-old Iowa woman who was run over and killed by a police sport utility vehicle when she was sunbathing on Mandalay Beach in Oxnard, received a $2.75 million settlement from the city of Oxnard, according to a news article in the Star Tribune. Cindy Conolly was hit by the police SUV on June 12, 2006 when she was laying on the sand after attending her son’s beach wedding, the article said.
Police officers didn’t even realize that they had run over Conolly until they got a 911 call about her. Conolly’s family filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city of Oxnard alleging wrongful death and negligence. Family members alleged that the city lacked proper safety policies and procedures, which could have easily prevented this unnecessary tragedy, the newspaper reported.
The city reportedly accepted full responsibility for what happened to Conolly. The case was scheduled to go to trial this week. An attorney for the plaintiffs said the family is pleased that their ordeal is finally over although no amount of money will ever bring their mother back. The two officers who were involved in the incident gave sworn depositions about the incident. They both said it was an honest accident and that they thought about Conolly every day.
City officials say they have already made several changes to remedy the situation. For instance, they now use lighter all-terrain vehicles instead of the Chevy Tahoe SUV that didn’t give the driver a clear view of the beach surroundings. The city is also mandating beach driving training for all city employees who drive on the beach.
This story is yet another example of how it usually takes a serious injury or death to make people or agencies more aware about safety procedures. The family probably asked a lot of questions. Why weren’t these procedures in place before? Who’s making sure they’re going to implement the changes they’ve said they would? They may have gotten answers to some of those questions through this lawsuit.
Holding people accountable for their actions and improving the system is an important function of personal injury lawyers. This wrongful death lawsuit not only made the city expedite these safety measures but also created awareness by generating publicity about these safety violations.