A Long Beach man who suffered a brain injury in a vehicle collision involving an on-duty U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent won a $4.1 million verdict, according to court papers obtained Monday, March 2.
U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez, in a verdict issued Friday, found negligence on the part of DEA Special Agent Albert Smith, who was found to have been distracted at the time of March 2016 collision in which he rear-ended a vehicle driven by Romulo Ray Rufo.
The impact caused permanent disability for the 55-year-old former Southern California Edison employee, according to attorney Eric Traut, who said the government offered $900,000 to settle prior to the non-jury trial.
Rufo testified that he stopped his vehicle, looked in his rear-view mirror, and saw Smith driving toward him while appearing to be looking down, according to Traut.
“It is my hope that this verdict brings some semblance of peace of mind for my clients and monetary relief for the family to compensate them for all that they have been through,” Traut said. “Without question, Mr. Rufo would return the money in an instant if he could have his former life back again.”
In the months following the accident, Traut said, Rufo’s symptoms worsened and he was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury. The injury has rendered him permanently disabled
and unable to drive, the attorney said.
The lawsuit brought two years ago by Rufo and his wife asserted a single cause of action for negligence and sought damages for medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and the wife’s loss of her husband’s companionship.