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Jury awards $38.8M to family of girl killed by trash truck

August 25, 2021 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A jury in Las Vegas has awarded $38.8 million in damages to the family of an 11-year-old girl who was fatally hit by a trash truck as she walked home from school in February 2017.

The Clark County District Court jury on Tuesday found the region’s contract waste hauler, Republic Services, liable for the death of Jazmin Espana following a two-week trial. The judge called the trial difficult and full of sadness.

In a statement, Republic Services expressed condolences to the girl’s family and friends, called her death a tragic accident and maintained that the company has “a strong culture committed to safety.”

Attorney David Barron, who represented the company, did not immediately respond Wednesday to an email about whether the company would appeal the verdict or seek to reduce the award amount.

During trial, Barron denied the company was liable but told the jury that if they found negligence an award of $10.25 million plus funeral expenses would be enough.

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Family attorney Sean Claggett sought $65 million.

“Our kids are valuable” the girl’s mother, Encarnacion Espana, said after the verdict, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. “Nothing can bring my daughter back, but it was justice.”

The jury heard that the truck driver, Julio Cortez-Solano, had a history of traffic violations and company infractions dating back to 2008 and had been involved in crashes in 2011 and 2013.

Cortez-Solano was fired in January 2016 after several incidents during the previous 13 months including striking a parked vehicle with a dumpster, hitting a power box and skipping service stops.

He was rehired a month later.

“These are all red flags that Republic Services had,” Claggett told the jury.

Jurors saw video showing the truck never fully stopped as it turned right through a crosswalk were Jazmin Espana and a friend had a walk signal to cross.

Cortez-Solano apologized on the witness stand and told the jury his life was changed forever. He said he was sure the girls were still on the sidewalk when he made the turn.

Espana told the Review-Journal that she forgave the driver and Republic Services and hoped her daughter would be remembered as a happy girl who loved school and aspired to be a teacher.