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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 18, 2002

State settles lawsuit over freeway death

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Capitol Bureau Chief

The state has agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a lawsuit by the family of a man who was killed on the H-1 Freeway in 1999 by a repeat drunken driver.

A lawyer for the family of Mung Van Pham alleged the state was partly to blame for the accident because there was no paved shoulder on the freeway where the incident occurred near the eastbound Kunia on-ramp.

Kent T. Yasuda, 47, was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison after pleading no contest to first-degree negligent homicide in the case in 2000. According to court records, Yasuda had six previous drunken driving convictions.

According to court records, shortly before 9 p.m. on July 4, 1999, Pham's 1983 Toyota pickup truck had a flat tire that caused him to pull over on the far right lane on the Honolulu-bound side of the freeway.

Pham parked his truck halfway on the right lane of the freeway and half on the grassy shoulder, and was inspecting the tire when he was stuck by a 1998 Mazda Protege driven by Yasuda. Pham was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pham's wife, Sang Thi Le, sued Yasuda on behalf of herself and the couple's seven children, alleging Yasuda drank "excessively" at a party before the accident.

The lawsuit also alleged the state was partly at fault. The highway construction at the scene was flawed because there was no paved shoulder there as required by highway design and construction standards, according to the suit.

Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.