$3.2 million settlement for S. Paula woman struck by VCSD patrol unit
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: October 26, 2012
The civil case of Santa Paula woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury when her vehicle was struck by a speeding Sheriff’s deputy’s patrol car has led to a $3.2 million settlement by Ventura County.
Although the CHP initially blamed the woman, Maya Tellez, 25, for the April 17, 2010 Highway 126 crash, investigators later determined she was not the primary cause. Tellez attempted to turn left onto the highway from a driveway near Timber Canyon Road at about 9 p.m. when her vehicle was struck by an eastbound patrol car driven by Deputy William Meixner. Meixner and his passenger, Deputy Beau Rodriguez, had just completed a traffic stop and had reentered the highway when the collision occurred.
Following the accident, CHP officials said the pickup had made a sudden left turn in front of the patrol car. But a subsequent investigation showed the patrol car was traveling 96 mph when it hit the vehicle driven by Tellez, whose site distance was obstructed by a curve in the road and a highway-hugging orchard.
When her pickup was struck it overturned and Tellez was ejected. Tellez’s boyfriend, Jose Velasquez Diaz, 29, of Santa Paula, the only passenger in the pickup, managed to climb out despite fractured vertebrae and a bruised lung. The two deputies were trapped in their patrol car and had to be extricated by fire crews. None of the four injured people wore a seat belt.
Tellez suffered permanent neurological injuries that ended her career plans of becoming an accountant. She has hearing loss in one ear that will require surgery, and although her speech has improved through therapy she still has difficulty speaking. Meixner suffered multiple broken bones and Rodriguez suffered head injuries, a broken right hand and wrist, collapsed lung and eight broken ribs.
Although Meixner claimed he was traveling 55 to 60 miles per hour at the time the police cruiser struck Tellez’s pickup, subpoenaed data from a crash data recorder attached to the VCSD car showed the car was traveling at more than 90 miles per hour one second before impact. Although another expert did not believe the police cruiser was traveling that fast, it was accepted that the vehicle was traveling above the speed limit.
Although the county did not admit fault, it agreed to settle with Tellez for $3 million and Diaz for $200,000. The county must pay the first $500,000 and the insurance will pay the balance.