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Vista Auto Accident Kills Three Victims

UNION TRIBUNE Reporter Pauline Repard reported that drunk driving is suspected in a fatal car accident that occurred on west bound state Route 78 on August 13, 2010 in Vista. The accident happened just west of Sycamore at around 12:30 a.m.. 23-year-old Erica Oliva of Fallbrook pulled her Nissan Altima to the side of the road because one of her passengers was getting sick. The driver along with two passengers, Susana Orozco a 23 year-old woman from Escondido, and coworker at Valley View Casino, and Omar Guzman of Oceanside, exited the vehicle just before it was hit. Omar escaped injury when he stepped away from the vehicle just prior to it being hit by a Jeep Cherokee, driven by 33-year-old Debbie Sumi of San Marcos killing the two woman and injuring 21-year-old Gerardo Cortez of Oceanside who was still sitting in the Nissan.

According to CHP officer Eric Newbury, Sumi was thrown from her vehicle, because she was not wearing a seat belt, and suffered major injuries. Her 34-year-old passenger from Orange, was crushed and killed when the Jeep overturned. “We’ve had a lot of fatalities from DUIs,” Newbury said. “It’s a tragedy. Only when something like this happens is there an outrage. All the people who died today, we can’t bring them back.” Sumi was arrested at the scene, on suspicion of drunk driving and felony vehicular manslaughter, before she was transported to a local trauma center.

Our condolences go out to the friends and families of the deceased.

Applicable California Law

In addition to criminal charges, Sumi will be liable for the wrongful death and personal injury to the victims and their families (see my prior Blog post for the law on drunk driving). The heirs of the driver of the Nissan, her passenger, and the passenger of the Jeep will have claims for wrongful death against Sumi (see my prior Blog post on wrongful death law). The heirs of the passenger in the Jeep might also have products liability claims against the manufacturer and distributer of the Jeep ( see my prior Blog post on products liability law). Sumi might be liable for punitive damages if her conduct amounted to gross negligence (see my prior Blog post on punitive damages). Cortez will have a claim for his personal injury, and possibly Guzman, if he was traumatized by almost being hit by the Jeep, and or if he was related to one of deceased and witnessed their death (see my prior Blog post on negligent infliction of emotional distress).

It seems that drunk drivers causing serious accidents are a daily occurrence. Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents. They usually result in wrongful death, or catastrophic injuries such as spinal injuries, causing paralyses or brain injuries. In these cases calling an experienced personal injury attorney is crucial.