The California Republican Party has agreed to an $11 million dollar settlement with a Riverside County motorcyclist who suffered life-altering injuries in an Orange County freeway crash that a lawsuit says was caused by an unlicensed campaign worker employed by a then-state assemblyman.
The agreement tentatively ends a civil lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court on behalf of Richard Ruehle, who was left a quadriplegic by the traffic collision on Aug. 5, 2016, on the eastbound 91 Freeway near the Orange County-Riverside County border.
“In 2016, an employee of a California Assembly campaign was involved in a car accident that permanently impacted the life of the plaintiff,” said Ashlee Titus, the California Republican Party’s general counsel, in a statement.
“The individual involved in the car accident was not an employee of the California Republican Party,” she said of the car’s driver. “The settlement was entirely paid by our insurance company, Travelers Insurance Company, and not by the party. We continue to wish the best for everyone involved.”
Ruehle was returning to his Riverside County home around 3:30 p.m. on a Yamaha when struck by a Chevrolet Malibu near Gypsum Canyon Road, according to court filings.
“Richard was really the family’s breadwinner, so this accident was such a tragedy in so many ways, both to him physically and to the family’s livelihood,” said Megan Demshki, an attorney with Orange County-based Aitken Aitken Cohn. “It is our hope that this (settlement) will help him provide for his family and seek the medical care he needs.”
The Malibu’s driver was working as a paid employee for the 2016 Eric Linder for State Assembly campaign, Demshki said. The Linder campaign was uninsured, the plaintiff’s attorney added.
Linder, a Corona Republican who lost the 2016 race after serving in Sacramento from 2012 to 2016, could not be reached for comment Thursday regarding the settlement.
Demshki said her team discovered that Linder’s campaign had formed a joint venture with the California Republican Party. Along with seeking to get Linder elected, the attorney said, workers for the campaign were gathering data from potential voters that could be used in a statewide database for future campaigns across the state.
The plaintiff attorney’s said this meant that the California Republican Party was also accountable for Ruehle’s injuries and the actions of the Malibu’s driver, who they described as having no experience canvassing a precinct or campaigning. Demshki said he had never had a driver’s license, which apparently hadn’t been checked before getting hired.
“Why should those large political employers be less accountable than Amazon drivers, Domino’s Pizza drivers and others using our highways at potential risk to others?” Wylie Aitken, the founder of the firm that represented Ruehle, said in a statement.
Ruehle is the father of six children and was an active hiker, martial artist and outdoors man prior to the crash, his lawyers said. Along with physical therapy, Ruehle has taken up adaptive CrossFit to regain his strength.
Ruehle has also become an active volunteer with the Triumph Foundation, serving as a speaker and counselor for others who have been newly diagnosed with spinal-cord injuries, his attorney said.
Source: Orange County Register