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Las Vegas trial centers on girl, 11, killed by garbage truck

It was fitting that the wrongful death trial for Jazmin Espana started on the first day of school.

“And this day involves a situation where our little girl Jazmin Espana was walking home from school,” attorney Sean Claggett told a jury Monday. “She would have been starting her junior year today.”

Jazmin was struck and killed by a Republic Services garbage truck in southeast Las Vegas in 2017. She was 11.

On Monday, attorneys presented their opening statements and witnesses testified in the civil trial before District Judge Jacqueline Bluth.

Republic Services attorney David Barron insisted that the driver played by the book the day of the collision. The crosswalk was clear, he said.

“This case doesn’t call for blame,” Barron said. “But it does call for analyzing what happened.”

Claggett, who represents Jazmin’s mom, Encarnacion Espana, displayed a list of the driver’s citations within the company. He promised to demonstrate negligence and said his client should be awarded $65 million in damages.

Tragedy at the crosswalk

After middle school let out at about 2:40 p.m. on Feb 8, 2017, Jazmin and her friend Samantha Lopez stopped at a 7-Eleven to get a Slurpee. The two were walking to pick up relatives from the nearby elementary school.

Samantha pressed the crosswalk button at the intersection of South Sandhill and East Viking roads when the 2003 garbage truck pulled up next to them, she testified. The driver, Julio Cortez-Solano, and Darryl Bryant, his passenger and co-worker, smiled at the girls, who looked at each other and laughed.

When the traffic light turned green, the walk signal indicated that the girls could cross the street. Samantha had turned around to look at the traffic behind her, and Jazmin had started to cross without her.

“At first she said, ‘Are you going to come with me?’ And I wasn’t,” Samantha told jurors. “After, I just heard her gasp.”

Samantha testified that she did not see the truck’s turn signals on. Video surveillance shows that the truck slowed down but did not come to a stop before turning right.

The truck hit Jazmin’s head before it knocked her to the ground, pulled her under and ran her over.

Negligence claims

At the trial, Claggett presented training materials that Republic Services uses to warn its drivers about how dangerous its vehicles can be.

The company shows pictures of little kids, reminding drivers to look out and assume that pedestrians don’t see them. They instruct them to stop for two seconds.

“If you’re alert today — she’s alive tomorrow,” one poster read.

Instead, Claggett argued, Republic Services negligently kept a driver on its staff with a history of disregarding safety on the road.

Cortez-Solano had a history of traffic violations with the company dating back to 2008, when he failed to obey a traffic signal. He was involved in a wreck in both 2011 and 2013.

“These are all red flags that Republic Services had,” Claggett told jurors as he listed the driver’s history with the company he still works for. “You can see the foreshadowing of what’s going to happen to Jazmin.”

In December 2014, Cortez-Solano struck a parked vehicle with a dumpster, evidence shows.

In July 2015, an internal investigation found that he lied about what happened when he struck the power box to a gate.

And on Sept 14, 2015, supervisors wrote him up for failing to follow directions and skipping multiple service stops. The next day, he was written up again for failure to report damage to a customer’s gate. He was fired in January 2016.

A month later, he was rehired to do residential services instead of commercial. Jazmin was killed less than a year later.

“He had several performance problems,” Barron said in his client’s defense. “Performance does not equate with safety.”

The trial is set to resume Tuesday.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter.

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