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Driver in fatal crash files civil suit

Trucker seeks $500,000 from public agencies over condition of Angeles Crest.

March 23, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com

The big-rig driver facing murder charges for the April 2009 runaway truck crash that killed two people in La Cañada Flintridge has filed a civil lawsuit against city, county and state officials, claiming that improper maintenance of Angeles Crest Highway led to the fatal collision.

In the lawsuit filed March 17 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Marcos Costa is seeking $500,000 for property damage, loss of liberty due to criminal proceedings and “oppression, mental duress, stress and mental trauma” related to the crash at the highway’s southern terminus at Foothill Boulevard.

Although La Cañada is included as a target of the lawsuit, claims of government negligence in creating dangerous roadway conditions are directed at the state, Los Angeles County and the California Department of Transportation.

Costa claims in the lawsuit that the agencies “failed to put up adequate warning signs and/or maintain an emergency truck lane to allow out-of-control trucks to exit the highway before they reached the intersection or take any reasonable steps to prevent trucks from traveling on the Angeles Crest Highway toward Foothill Boulevard.”

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Costa cited seven prior truck crashes at the intersection in claiming that “defendants knew or should have known that Angeles Crest Highway was a high accident zone and was an immediate safety concern.”

A native of Brazil, Costa is acting as his own attorney in the civil action, even after giving up his self-defense in the criminal proceedings and accepting a court-appointed attorney.

Costa could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. He was in custody for nearly two years before posting a $340,000 bond earlier this month.

Attorneys for Caltrans and La Cañada said the lawsuit was without merit.

“It’s a frivolous action,” said Christopher Hiddleson, an attorney for Caltrans. “The tragic accident of April 1, 2009, occurred because Marcos Costa was operating a truck with a defective braking system and because he failed to follow the rules that govern the operation of a truck on a California highway.”

Family members of Palmdale resident Angel Posca and his 12-year-old daughter Angelina — both killed when Costa’s truck smashed into their vehicle — have filed wrongful-death lawsuits that target Costa, La Cañada, Los Angeles County, Caltrans and the state.

Scott Grossberg, an attorney retained by La Cañada to defend the city against the Posca family’s litigation, said he had read Costa’s lawsuit, but had yet to receive an official copy.

He said the city was exploring possible responses to what he said was a confusing complaint.

“It’s unfortunate he’s acting as his own attorney,” Grossberg said.

Attorney Edward Murphy, who is defending Costa in the criminal case, said he had “absolutely no knowledge” of Costa’s lawsuit.
 
 

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