Nevada board OKs $700,000 in settlements in three deaths

CARSON CITY - The state Board of Examiners agreed Tuesday to pay more than $700,000 to settle two separate lawsuits brought against state agencies that involved the deaths of three people.

In the first case, the board, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, voted to pay $375,000 to settle a case brought on behalf of the family of Eduardo Lopez-Hernandez, 21, who was walking in traffic on U.S. Highway 95 in Las Vegas in August 2010.

When two Nevada Highway Patrol officers tried to remove him from traffic, he resisted. More officers were called to help, and Lopez-Hernandez later died in custody.

Authorities said Lopez-Hernandez initially was driving erratically when he crashed into other vehicles and fought with motorists.

Sandoval noted that if officers had done nothing, Lopez-Hernandez could have died in traffic.

The settlement was recommended to avoid the cost of a trial and the potential of a larger award by a jury.

The city of Henderson also will pay $45,000 to settle the case.

The second settlement, for a little more than $330,000, was for the deaths of two women who were hit by a vehicle driven by a Nevada Department of Transportation worker while they were parked on the side of U.S. Highway 95A near Fernley in June 2011.

Renee J. Upchurch, 53, and Esther Garza, 59, both from San Diego, Texas, were killed.

Transportation Department employee Leslie Brewer of Sparks pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, so the state had no defense, the board was told.

A further settlement of about $20,000 is expected for payment for the loss of the victims' vehicle.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at or 775-687-3900.