KSBY employee was not using phone when she was hit by car, witness says

Tricia Rittger
Tricia Rittger

A woman struck and killed by a vehicle while walking across Shell Beach Road toward the Cliffs Resort was not distracted by a cell phone, a witness testified in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Monday.

The family of Tricia Rittger is suing the popular hotel after Rittger, 39, died the night of Nov. 19, 2011. She was the national sales manager at KSBY.

The Rittger family’s attorneys contend that the Cliffs management ignored safety concerns about Shell Beach Road and did not enforce a parking policy requiring employees to park in a small parking lot across the street, which forced guests to use the lot and cross the often busy road, a violation of the hotel’s use permit.

The family is seeking an undetermined amount of general, economic and punitive damages from Cliffs Resort LLC and owner King Ventures.

In the second day of testimony Monday, jurors heard from Alicia Lewis, who was walking behind Rittger when Rittger was struck; Kathleen Choal, president and general manager of KSBY-TV; and John King, co-owner of the Cliffs Resort.

Attorneys for the Cliffs suggest Rittger was using her cell phone and distracted.

During testimony, Lewis said she was behind Rittger and also crossing Shell Beach Road when Rittger was hit by a southbound vehicle. Lewis said she never saw Rittger using a cell phone and said she did not appear distracted.

Under cross examination, Lewis admitted that she could not see Rittger’s hands as she crossed the street and that Rittger’s cell phone was later discovered by the sidewalk.

KSBY manager Choal testified that Rittger earned about $78,000 annually and oversaw about 40 percent of the station’s revenue. Choal described her as hard-working, well-respected and liked among her colleagues and clients.

“I thought she was great. … We all loved her,” Choal said, adding that her death has been tough for KSBY employees. “We continue to have moments when it’s really hard.”

King later testified that guest safety is a top priority at the Cliffs. When questioned by the Rittgers’ attorney, Philip Alexander, as to whether management did anything to improve safety on Shell Beach Road, King said the hotel expanded its valet service. He added that the employee parking policy was not actively enforced.

“I did nothing,” King said when pressed by Alexander. Testimony continues Tuesday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

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