Award slashed in teen's death
Jose Luis Rincon

The family of a 14-year-old boy who was killed by a drunken driver in January 2008 has settled its lawsuit against the city of Tucson for $2 million.

The city has also agreed to name a basketball court or a parks and recreation facility or amenity for the boy.

Jose Rincon Jr. and a friend were riding their bicycles east on East Broadway near Harrison Road about 7:20 p.m. Jan. 12, 2008, when Glenda Rumsey struck the teens with her car. Rincon died.

The boy's parents, Jose Sr. and Adriana, filed a lawsuit against Rumsey, the city of Tucson and Chuy's, the restaurant where Rumsey had been drinking before the crash.

Chuy's settled before the February 2010 civil trial for an undisclosed sum.

During the trial, jurors were told that a city engineer had abandoned plans to add five feet of asphalt to the roadway during an improvement project, creating a large offset in the lanes on either side of Vozack Lane, just east of Harrison. As a result, Rumsey ended up in the bike lane when her lane ended and she tried to merge.

The jury decided Rumsey, the city of Tucson and Chuy's were equally responsible and awarded $40 million to the Rincon family. The city's $13 million share was the largest individual judgment ever against the city.

The city appealed, and Pima County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Lee denied the motion for a new trial but granted the defendants' request for a reduced judgment, slashing the judgment to $12 million.

The city then went to the Arizona Court of Appeals, and it decided in March 2011 that the case should be retried.

The Rincons settled with both Rumsey and the city recently.

The settlement with Rumsey is confidential; the settlement with the city specifically states the city was making "no admission of liability, culpability or fault, either by expression or implication."

Tucson City Attorney Mike Rankin and the Rincons' attorney, Ronald Mercaldo, both simply said they were glad the case had finally been resolved.

Jose Rincon Sr. also expressed relief at the end of the proceedings. He said that regardless of the city's stance on its culpability, it has fixed the road.

"The fact of the matter is that when you drive down that road, it's a safer transition now," Rincon said.

Back when Lee reduced the $40 million judgment, Rincon said he and his wife had agreed to settle the lawsuit for $950,000 before trial, but the city refused.

He bemoaned the fact that because the public didn't know the city hadn't accepted the settlement offer, residents were under the impression he and his wife were "money-grubbers."

The lawsuit was never about the money, he said.

Rumsey, now 46, was convicted of manslaughter, aggravated assault and three driving under the influence charges in December 2008.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Fields sentenced her to 14 years for manslaughter and 13 years for aggravated assault, to be served concurrently, along with the three- and six-month DUI sentences.

Jose Rincon Jr. died the day he took his entrance exams for Salpointe Catholic High School. Had he lived, he would have graduated next weekend, his father said Friday.

"The fact of the matter is that when you drive down that road, it's a safer transition now."

Jose Rincon Sr., father of boy killed in 2008 on Broadway near Harrison Road

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 537-4241 or kimsmith@azstarnet.com