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Jury awards more than $3 million to family of Cotati crash victim

A Sonoma County jury awarded more than $3 million Wednesday to the family of a Santa Rosa mother killed in a 2009 collision on Highway 116.

In a 9-3 decision, the jurors said Caltrans was 25 percent responsible for the fatal crash and must pay Maria Juana Flores' family roughly that portion of the official $10.6 million verdict.

Barring an appeal, Caltrans must pay all of the $646,446 in economic losses awarded by the jury and one-fourth of the $10 million award for non-economic losses.

Fatal Hwy. 116 Crash

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The woman's husband, Jaime Flores Aguilar of Santa Rosa, and their three children will receive about $2 million, after attorneys' fees and trial costs are covered, said Jeremy Fietz, their attorney.

Fietz said he believed the $10.6 million verdict is a record for Sonoma County wrongful death lawsuits, although most of that judgment will not result in a monetary award.

The driver who struck Flores' car from behind on Highway 116 in Cotati, Gilbert Freeth of Huntington Beach, was dismissed from the case before trial in exchange for $100,000, the limit of his insurance policy, Fietz said.

The jury found Freeth 75 percent responsible for the crash.

"Justice has been done. It's over," Jaime Flores said through a translator in the hallway outside the courtroom.

Flores, 49, said he would "not want one penny" if his wife was still alive.

Their youngest child, Josue, 7, asks "what happens, Daddy, if you die," Flores said.


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