Settlement

The family of a man killed while crossing Sahuarita Road after the 2017 Pecan Festival settled their lawsuit for $140,000.

According to the settlement agreement released Tuesday by the Town of Sahuarita under an Arizona Open Records request, FICO must pay the family of Donald Ongley $100,000. The Tucson Independent Restaurant Alliance must pay $10,000, and both Mama's Hawaiian Pizza and Ralph Hogan, one of the drivers who struck Ongley, must pay $15,000 each to the family.

Ongley, 77, was attempting to cross Sahuarita Road about 90 minutes after sundown on Nov. 11, 2017, when he was struck by two eastbound vehicles. Earlier that day, the area where Ongley was struck had been a temporary crosswalk for the pecan festival, but the festival had been over nearly two hours at the time of the accident and it was no longer a marked crosswalk.

According to an autopsy, Ongley died as a result of blunt force trauma and his blood alcohol level was 0.183. The legal limit for driving under the influence is 0.08 in Arizona.

Sahuarita police reports indicate Hogan, the first driver to hit Ongley, had a blood alcohol level of 0.074 to 0.090 at the time of the incident. The Pima County Attorney’s Office and Sahuarita Town Prosecutor's Office declined to file charges in the case.

On Nov. 2, Ongley's son, Brian, filed a lawsuit in Pima County Superior Court on behalf of himself and three siblings. He claimed the actions of Farmers Investment Company, the town, Mama’s Hawaiian BBQ, the Arizona Independent Restaurant Alliance, and the two drivers contributed to his father's death. The lawsuit followed a $1 million claim filed in August 2018.

The lawsuit was settled in June, with all parties agreeing the terms of the settlement would remain confidential. The parties also said that entering the agreement should not be deemed an admission of liability.

At the time the settlement was announced, Mark Febbo, a spokesman for the Town of Sahuarita, would only say "neither the town nor the town’s insurance company paid anything in the settlement."

According to U.S. District court records, all parties agreed to dismiss the matter with prejudice, meaning it cannot be re-opened. Each of the parties also agreed to pay their own attorneys' fees and other costs. 

The lawsuit alleged FICO was culpable because Ongley had paid to park in a designated lot and as a festival attendee, the company had a legal obligation “to keep its premises reasonably safe.”

FICO submitted a safety plan to the town for the festival and parking, which was approved by the town. Sahuarita Police provided traffic support during the event.

According to the lawsuit, a temporary crosswalk that had been established for the festival was removed while attendees were still at the festival, which “created an unreasonably dangerous and unsafe condition for the remaining festival attendees.”

The festival ended at 5 p.m., and by 6 p.m., the temporary crosswalk had been removed. Ongley was struck while crossing where it had been placed around 6:45 p.m.

The lawsuit also said the drivers who hit Ongley “failed to exercise reasonable care when driving” and such failure caused Ongley’s death.

The TIRA was named in the suit because the vendor, Mama’s Hawaiian BBQ, received a special events liquor license via its TIRA membership. Mama’s and owner Sam Alboy were also named in the suit.

The suit also claimed the liquor license application did not comply with state law, and that the vendors sold liquor to Ongley when he was “obviously intoxicated” and the liquor consumption “was a proximate cause in Mr. Ongley’s death.”

Kim Smith | 520-547-9740

Assistant Editor Kim Smith moved to Arizona from Michigan when she was 16. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism in 1989. She has worked at seven newspapers of varying size in Arizona, Texas and Nevada.

Load comments