Del Mar attorney helps family recover from devastating loss

By Julie Sarno

You might wonder if there’s a story behind the inscription on the bench at 15th Street in front of L’Auberge which reads, “Given by the County of San Diego and the Villalpando Family, In loving memory of Ryan, Veronica, Mateo and Bella Rose.”

There is a story, a tragic one, but the family behind the story has an enduring spirit which is healing. Del Mar attorney and Solana Beach resident Bing I. Bush Jr. paid to donate the bench in honor of a family he has become very close to.

Bush represented Eddie and Lisa Villalpando in the wrongful death suit involving their adult son, Ryan, his wife, Veronica, and their two children. Bush was recommended to the Villalpandos by a friend, Duff Tinna, who worked in Del Mar.

“The Villalpandos are the closest family I have ever seen,” said Bush, whose law offices have been located in Del Mar for 12 years.

On Feb. 13, 2010, Ryan, 32, Veronica, 29, and their children, Mateo, 4, and Bella Rose, seven months, who lived in Redlands, were on their way to deliver Valentine’s Day cards to Ryan’s parents, Eddie and Lisa, and Ryan’s sister, Erikka. Their vehicle, a Honda Pilot, was rear-ended by a Marten Transport tractor trailer while southbound on the I-15 (south of the Jurapa Street exit in Ontario) and pushed into the back of another tractor trailer, causing a multi-vehicle collision, Bush said.

The family of four died at the scene. The California Highway Patrol concluded Marten Transport Ltd., and the Marten driver violated California vehicle code 22350, driving too fast for conditions. Marten Transport vigorously maintained the Villalpando vehicle had rear-ended the tractor trailer in front before being rear-ended by the Marten truck. After Bush presented depositions from more than 40 witnesses and CHP officers, Marten Transport Ltd. settled just before trial for $2,425,000. Another company, Alamilla (not named in the suit), paid $75,000 to resolve any later claim for indemnity.

“Nothing can replace the unimaginable loss that this family has endured,” said Bush. “There is no trial, no appeal, and yet, there is resolution. No economic damages were at issue, and no recovery for decedents was at issue and no recovery for pain and suffering, nor for grieving of the plaintiffs is permitted in California.”

The $2.5 million settlement in the Villalpando v. Marten Transport, Ltd., Superior Court of California case was a record for a wrongful death case of its type. In the case, Eddie and Lisa claimed wrongful death damages for the loss of their son and his family.

Bush explained the high demand by the closeness of the Villalpando family. Eddie and Lisa fell in love in high school. Their son, Ryan, was born in February of Lisa’s senior year. Their daughter, Erikka, was born five years later. Eddie and Lisa raised their children to value education and sports. Eddie had played football and coached Ryan in soccer, baseball, basketball and football. Ryan played football in college and completed two master’s degrees, a master’s in education and a master’s in educational leadership. Ryan was a teacher and football coach. He met and married Veronica, who was also a school teacher and then the couple had their two children. They lived near Ryan’s parents, Eddie and Lisa, and saw one another nearly every day.

“I can’t imagine going through this tragedy without Bing,” said Eddie Villalpando. “He took a personal interest in us from the beginning. The holidays are especially difficult for us. He invited us to his home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

“Eddie and Lisa are very down to earth and they have always lived the family values in spades” said Bush. “When they lost Ryan, Veronica and the kids, Mateo and Bella Rose, they lost nearly everything they had to live for, as they did everything together before this tragic accident. Now, they are struggling to reinvent themselves with an authentic vulnerability and refusal to become bitter or negative that is truly inspiring.”

“We carry this with us wherever we go,” said Eddie Villalpando, “but I know they would not want us to be sad.”

“We continue to struggle with this every day,” said Lisa.

Eddie, Lisa and Erikka plan to move to the Del Mar area to escape the painful memories of their Redlands’ home.

“We’ve got to try to enjoy every moment while we are here — Ryan loved life,” Lisa said.