SAN DIEGO - The city of San Diego has agreed to pay $18.5 million to the family of a boy who lost his leg after he was struck by a city trash truck.
Luke Acuna, now 10 years old, lost one of his legs and suffered massive internal injuries after a trash truck hit him while he was on his way home from school at Garfield Elementary in November 2011.
The collision happened when Luke was riding his skateboard near Meade Avenue and Kansas Street.
Local high-powered personal injury attorney Stephen Estey negotiated the $18.5 million settlement for Luke, citing fault with city truck driver Shawn Bailey.
Estey said Bailey, who has more than a dozen traffic violations while on the clock, performed an illegal "T-turn" when he hit Luke.
Furthermore, Estey said witness Susana Fausto testified Bailey was on his cellphone when he ran over Luke.
"I was trying to get his attention to tell him and he was on the cellphone," said Fausto.
"The reality is this involved a city trash truck driver making an illegal and dangerous turn near an elementary school … and he was on his cellphone. We are hoping by settling this case the city will acknowledge it has safety issues with its trucks," said Estey.
Estey said video obtained by investigators on his legal team showed that drivers are still making dangerous T-turns.
Luke has undergone more than 50 operations and still battles massive internal injuries.
Estey said the settlement will be set aside for Luke and will be used for a lifetime of medical challenges.
"The family is happy, but you can never give Luke back the life he had, so this will help compensate for the medical bills, but not for what happened," said Estey.
Luke said he is already creating a new life.
"My dream is to be an astronaut with the first prosthetic foot," said Luke.
Luke attends therapy twice a week, and he is trying to balance school, along with his father, his personal caretaker.
Luke, an accomplished young athlete before the accident, is now excelling in sports like archery and wheel-chair basketball.
"I may play on the varsity team next season; that's my next record breaker," said Luke.
The lawsuit was the latest in a string of record setting settlements for Estey.
His December verdict against the Los Angeles Unified School District was the largest verdict of its kind.
The $18.5 million settlement is the largest personal injury settlement in the city of San Diego.
Bailey still works for the city, 10News learned.
For more information on Luke's story, go to http://sandiego.esteybomberger.com.
Grant, Genovese & Baratta, LLP, the legal firm hired by the city in this case, issued the following statement:
"We feel there really can be no winners and losers here. What happened was a tragedy regardless of anyone's fault. We believe it is in everyone's best interests if the case can be resolved without forcing a trial by agreeing on an amount that will reasonably take care of Luke's past and future medical expenses, care and ongoing needs."
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