LOS ANGELES – The parents of a man accidentally struck and killed by a driver in Lynwood in 2017 are suing GEICO Casualty Co., alleging the firm insured the motorist and has wrongfully failed to pay the $6 million judgment the couple obtained against him after a trial.
Juan Valencia and Sonia Mena Garcia, the father and mother of the late Arnold Mena, brought the breach-of-contract suit Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking payment of the entire judgment. A GEICO representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
GEICO issued an auto policy to the driver, Luis Herrera, effective from May 23, 2017 through Nov. 23, 2017, the suit states. Herrera struck Mena, a pedestrian, on Atlantic Avenue on Sept. 23, 2017, causing him to suffer brain damage and die the next day, the suit alleges.
In June 2019, Mena’s parents asked GEICO to pay Herrera’s available policy limits in exchange for a release of liability, but the insurer rejected the request, according to the suit. Instead, GEICO’s lawyer said the company would grant the request only if the couple also released the car’s owner of liability, the suit states.
At the time, the plaintiffs had a pending claim against the car owner under a policy from Anchor General Insurance Co., so they could not release him through a settlement of the GEICO policy, the suit states. Anchor General eventually reached an agreement to pay the car owner’s policy limits, the suit states.
The couple sued Herrera in February 2019 for wrongful death and on Dec. 10, a Long Beach Superior Court jury found in favor of the plaintiffs with the total $10 million award reduced to $6 million due to the contributory negligence of their son, according to the suit.
After the judgment, Herrera assigned to the couple his right to bring an action against GEICO, including the right to bring the current breach-of- contract suit against the insurer, according to the plaintiffs’ court papers.
GEICO’e earlier refusal to accept the couple’s policy limits demand was a breach of Herrera’s insurance policy and so the insurer is liable for all the resulting damages, including the payment of the entire amount of the judgment from the wrongful death suit trial, according to the suit.