San Diego will pay $900,000 to an 82-year-old woman whose foot and ankle were crushed when her car collided with a city fire engine that sped through a red light while heading to an emergency in 2018.
The settlement approved by the City Council last week covers Marlowe Berg’s medical bills, future treatment and adverse impact on the remaining years of her life, according to court documents.
Lawyers for Berg, a former member of the San Diego State University faculty, say she can no longer drive or travel and can barely walk because her left foot doesn’t lie flat, which makes her nervous about falling.
Before the collision in La Jolla, Berg was a world traveler who climbed the Acropolis in Greece and visited Japan, Scandinavia and Egypt, her lawyer said.
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In a September 2020 interview with NBC 7 Investigated, Berg recounted the damaging crash.
"There was no sound, and then all of a sudden I saw a blaze of red in front of me,” Berg said. “I tried to stop but then all I remember is the sound of the collision. The next thing I remember is that all of the airbags deployed in the car had spun around apparently and there was smoke coming from the engine.”
She said her car's engine block crushed her foot. She also suffered a concussion from the impact of the airbags, as well as a broken sternum, wrist, and vertebra in her back. She spent the next year after the accident in and out of surgeries and was forced to live in an assisted living facility and undergo extensive rehabilitation.
A spokeswoman for City Attorney Mara Elliott declined to comment on the settlement.
While drivers of emergency vehicles aren’t held to the same vehicle code standards as ordinary drivers, they are required under state law to “drive with due regard for the safety of all persons,” according to court documents.
The deputy fire marshal driving the engine estimated in court documents that he was traveling 25 mph through the intersection.