LANCASTER – A jury awarded $20 million on Thursday, Sept. 21, to the parents of Jessica Ordaz, the woman killed in a traffic collision caused by former Enterprise Elementary School principal Mary Noel Kruppe, who was driving while drunk in Lancaster in 2018.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel also found that Geico had refused to settle the case for the policy limits before trial.
According to trial testimony in the lawsuit brought by Salvador Rodriguez Ordaz and Braulia Ordaz, Kruppe was intoxicated when she veered into oncoming traffic on Nov. 15, 2018, colliding with a car driven by 29-year-old Jessica Ordaz.
After the crash, Kruppe was hospitalized and tests indicated she had a blood alcohol concentration level of nearly three times the legal limit. Kruppe was convicted in 2020 of one count each of second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and was sentenced later that year to 15 years to life in prison.
“It’s frustrating that insurance companies like Geico drag these clear liability cases out for years to avoid paying what’s rightfully owed to our clients,” said lead plaintiffs’ trial attorney R. Rex Parris. “These aggressive tactics by insurance companies do nothing more than prolong the suffering of a grieving family.”
Kruppe, now 40, “clearly knew her actions would put everyone on the road in danger, yet she still decided to get behind the wheel after a night of heavy drinking,” said another plaintiffs’ lawyer, Alexander R. Wheeler. “Our clients’ daughter had such a bright future ahead of her, but it was shattered because of Ms. Kruppe’s reckless behavior.”
In a letter of remorse to the plaintiffs, Kruppe said that “words cannot begin to express the depth of my sorrow for the fact that I killed your daughter. I am so sorry that I have created this pain for you.”
Kruppe admitted she was drunk when the collision occurred and that she was at fault, but she also maintained her insurance company settled the issues with the plaintiffs before they sued her, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ court papers.
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