The family of an elementary schoolgirl struck by a car at a crosswalk reached a tentative, substantial $15.93 million settlement with Anaheim and two other defendants last week. Paulina Perez, then an 11-year-old student at Juliette Low Elementary, made her way to school around 7 a.m. on September 17, 2014 for a free breakfast program it offers when the accident left her with "catastrophic" injuries. No crossing guard had been on duty at the time of the accident.
A lawsuit filed the following year against Anaheim, the Magnolia School District and private crossing guard company All City Management took issue with a policy that scheduled crossing guards at the start time of class rather than when schools open. Perez was struck by oncoming traffic seven minutes before a crossing guard had been set to safely guide students through the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Monterey Street that leads to Juliette Low's entrance.
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According to a KCBS-TV Channel report last April, Perez had won both the Principal's and Shining Star Award at the elementary school before the accident left her paralyzed and with brain injuries. Salud Herrera, Paulina's mom, pointed out that another child and an older man had been struck by traffic in recent months at that same intersection.
"We hope this settlement is a catalyst for change in the way all cities in this county address dangerous lapses in public safety," attorney Mark P. Robinson Jr. said in a press statement. "Paulina Perez has suffered and will continue to suffer for the rest of her life. This settlement will provide Paulina the future medical and life care that she desperately needs."
In reaching the agreement on Tuesday, Anaheim plans provide a crossing guard at the intersection where Perez suffered injuries that left her severely disabled: unable to speak, walk, eat or care for herself. "Our heart goes out to Paulina and her family," city spokeswoman Erin Ryan tells the Weekly. Anaheim expects to finalize the settlement in the coming weeks.
"Paulina Perez is a wonderful person," Robinson added. "She has a smile that warms the heart of everyone. With the improved quality of life and physical and emotional care, we hope that Paulina can find some measure of permanent happiness."