Articles Posted in Drunk Driving

Published on:

In a decision published at the end of last month, E.M. v. Lounge, Cal. Ct. App. (2017), a California appeals court clarified the reach of the liability of venues for serving alcohol to patrons who later become injured as a result of intoxication. The clarification, however, was not based solely upon the claim that the furnishing of the alcohol was responsible for the resultant accident. Instead, the claim was based on a respondeat superior theory of law. Respondeat superior is a legal concept whereby an employer can be held accountable for the negligent acts of its employee, if the conduct occurred within the scope of the employment.

liquor bottlesIn the case, a woman had reportedly consumed alcohol that was furnished by the defendant “Lounge.” She was then involved in a car accident and died. Her family brought the wrongful death lawsuit on her behalf. The initial complaint and second amended complaint pursued negligence theories, but the third amended complaint included a respondeat superior claim against the Lounge, asserting that the decedent was an employee at the Lounge and that it was during the course of her attendance as an employee that she had consumed excessive amounts of alcohol. The defendant moved for a demurrer, claiming that the argument should not be allowed, since the claimants should have known when they originally filed the lawsuit whether or not the decedent was an employee, and further disputing that she was at all.

Generally speaking, California law provides extensive protection against civil liability for injuries that occur due to a person who has consumed alcohol. State law explicitly states that “the furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries.” (Civ. Code, § 1714, subd. (b).) Therefore, by law, the Lounge could not be held liable for serving the decedent alcohol because the serving of the alcohol was not the cause of the accident.

Continue reading

Published on:

drunkdriving_2.jpgSan Diego News 6 Mike Wille reported that 21-year-old Ashley Maya was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence and causing a fatal auto accident on February 12, 2012. According to the CHP, Maya was drunk and driving at a high rate of speed. As she attempted to merge from Highway 163 to Interstate 8, she overturned her vehicle, ejecting two of the three passengers, one of whom died at the scene. The two other passengers were injured and transported to a local hospital. Police arrested her on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Our sympathy goes out to the family and friends of the deceased.

Applicable California Law

Published on:

imagesCAISKFPN.jpgFox Business writer Susan Ladika reported that San Diego is ranked first among the nation’s major cities for DUI citations. The report is based on statistics from Insurance.com from November 1, 2010 to October 31, 2011. Furthermore, it is the second year in a row San Diego leads the list. However, confounding factors such as lack of public transportation and vigilance by local police could account for the high ranking. Peter Moraga, spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, speculates that California leads in DUI citations because it is a “car-centric state,” and law enforcement officials are “very attuned to the danger of driving under the influence.” Other factors such as tourists, visiting business people, people in the military, and young drivers contribute to the problem. According to the FBI there were 1.4 million DUI arrests in 2010.

Applicable California Law

For the law and other factors affecting DUI accidents in California see my prior Blog post UC San Diego Study On DUI Car Accidents Causing Serious Injury Or Fatalities.

Published on:

images.jpgSan Diego News 8 reported that an unidentified woman passenger in a Hyundai Sonata was fatally injured on October 8, 2011. The tragic auto accident happened at around 2:30 a.m. on state Route 78 and Bear Valley Parkway in Escondido, when 21-year-old Joshua Goldbaum of Escondido collided into a Ford Aerostar van. One of Goldbaum’s passengers died, another was injured as well as the driver of the van. The passenger in the van, who sustained major injuries is expected to survive. According to CHP Officer Bettencourt, Goldbaum who fled the scene, was later arrested and taken to the Vista jail and faces numerous felony charges for hit-and-run, gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence.

Our condolences go out to the families and friends of those who tragically lost their lives

Applicable California Law

Published on:

04-23-2008_dui-300x225NBC News reported on a new study, which recommends lowering the legal limit for DUI arrests. The study conducted by sociologist David Phillips and Kimberly Brewer at the University of California San Diego suggests that even one drink can seriously impair a driver enough to cause an accident resulting in serious injuries or wrongful death. The study was in part based on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which contains statistics on U.S. drivers involved in fatal car accidents. The researchers analyzed the ratio of severe injuries and minor ones involving 1.5 million people between 1994 and 2008. According to Phillips, “accidents are 36.6 percent more severe even when alcohol was barely detected in driver’s blood.” “Compared with sober drivers, buzzed drivers are more likely to speed, more likely to be improperly seat-belted and more likely to drive the striking vehicle, all of which are associated with greater severity,” Phillips said. Phillips hopes the study will influence legislators to lower the blood alcohol levels for impaired drivers so as to reduce severe injuries, which will save lives.

Applicable California Law

California lowered its blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to .08 in 1990. California Vehicle Code 23152 makes it illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (see my prior Blog post San Diego Woman Arrested For Fatal Coronado Traffic Accident for California’s Driving Under the Influence Law). In addition to criminal penalties, there is civil liability for those who injure or fatally injure victims (see my prior Blog post San Diego DUI Statistics Improve On The New Year for California Wrongful Death and Punitive Damage Law).

Published on:

wallis_t593SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE Elizabeth Aguilera reported that Izaiah Wallis of Vista was released from Rady Children’s Hospital on May 17, 2011 after being hospitalized for seven months. Izaiah and his grandfather were on there way to a park in Oceanside when they were struck by a 17-year-old drunk driver on October 18, 2010. The toddler was thrown from his stroller and was left paralyzed and partially blind as a result of a brain injury when his head was severed from his spine. His parents were quoted as saying, “It’s going to be a bumpy road, but with all the help and support we can get through this,” said Jacob Wallis, Izaiah’s father. “It’s like bringing a newborn baby home for the first time. Lucy and I have waiting for this day to come,” said Wallis, referring to his fiancé, who is also Izaiah’s mother. The driver who hit them was sentenced to 480 days in custody.

Applicable California Law

The teenage driver was convicted of driving under the influence resulting in bodily injury (see my prior Blog post on California DUI Law). Furthermore, Izaiah and his grandfather will have claims for personal injury. However, there is a question as to the amount of insurance or other assets of the responsible parties to adequately compensate the victims, which is usually the case in accidents involving catastrophic injuries(see my prior Blog post on UM/UIM Coverage). Given the catastrophic nature of Izaiah’s injuries and the cost of future care it is doubtful that the defendants have adequate assets. California has various assistance programs, such as the fund for victims of violent crimes. Fortunately, San Diego has exceptional facilities to help brain injury victims such as Brain Tek Institute and the rehabilitation center at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas (see my prior Blog post on Traumatic Brain Injury).

Published on:

story_37San Diego News 10 reported that 28-year-old Nicholas Thibault pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced on May 10, 2011 for the death of 48-year-old Brent Routley. The fatal auto accident happened on February 27, 2011 when Thibault, who was drunk at the time, veered off the road as he exited the I-805 in City Heights. Routley who was camping in the shrubbery was struck and killed by the BMW, which Thibault had borrowed. Routley was survived by his wife Michelle, children, and grandchildren. His wife was quoted as saying “He’s (Thibault) taken away my partner for life. He’s taken away my future.” A friend Dorothy Fenley said Routley had just gotten a job and was on his way to getting his life back together.

Our condolences go out to the Routley family and friends.

Applicable California Law

Published on:

080812_motorcycle_accidentSan Diego News 6 reported that a bicycle rider was seriously injured when he was hit by a motorcyclist on March 20, 2011. The bike accident happened around 12:30 a.m. on the 200 block of 31st Street when the cyclist rode into the path of the motorcycle according to officer David Stafford of the San Diego Police Department. The bicycle rider is thought to have sustained a broken pelvis. The unnamed motorcyclist fled the scene of the accident after leaving his passenger there. The motorcycle rider was subsequently arrested by police at his home on suspicion of felony drunk driving and hit and run. The bicycle rider had also been drinking, according to Stafford, but was not charged.

Applicable California Law

The motorcyclist will face criminal charges for felony hit and run as well as DUI (see my prior Blog post on California DUI Law and California Hit and Run Law). In addition, the bicyclist rider will have claims for any damage to his bicycle and his personal injuries. This would include medical expenses, lost earnings and earning capacity, and compensation for pain and suffering. However, if it is determined that his drinking, or his driving contributed to causing his injuries, any claims will be reduced accordingly. If the motorcyclist was in fact driving under the influence at the time of the accident he could be subject to punitive damages (see my prior Blog post on California Punitive Damage Law).

Published on:

HighSpeedChaseTNSan Diego News 10 reported that five people were injured because of an auto accident resulting from a high speed chase with police on February 4, 2011. The chase started at around 9 p.m. on Highway 163 when a CHP officer tried to pull over a speeding vehicle whose driver refused to stop. The pursuit continued through downtown when, at Sixth Avenue and A Street, the fleeing vehicle hit another vehicle, which was occupied by a couple and their young daughter. “It was definitely a violent collision” said San Diego police Sgt. James Reschke. “He was doing some serious speed.” According to witness Eric Moore, “When I looked in my rearview mirror… I saw a car flipping over.” Multiple officers attempted to restrain the driver of the fleeing vehicle, who kicked out a patrol car’s window. “He was high on something: alcohol or drugs or both,” said Reschke. The intoxicated driver, his passenger, and the occupants of the other vehicle were all injured and taken to local hospitals for treatment. Subsequently, the reckless driver and his passenger were both arrested for speeding and other violations.

Applicable California Law

The driver of the fleeing vehicle will face potential criminal charges for violation of Penal Code 148 resisting or avoiding arrest, Vehicle Code 22350 California’s speed law and DUI (see my prior Blog post on California’s DUI Law) to name a few. In addition, he will face civil liability for any property that was damaged as well as for the personal injuries he caused. Furthermore, he could face potential claims for punitive damages for gross negligence (see my prior Blog post for the law on Punitive Damages). If the passengers of his vehicle pursues any claims, they could be reduced to the extent that their conduct contributed to their own injuries.

Published on:

imagesCAG8W6WBUnion Tribune reporter Eric Edmonds story on off-roading in Southern California’s deserts, highlights the heightened risk of serious injuries to children caused by the operation of all terrain vehicles. Although off-roading in California is a year-round activity, when temperatures in the deserts are more moderate, around October, large numbers of off-road enthusiasts driving motorcycles, trucks and ATVs invade popular areas such as Glamis in San Diego. People taking vacations or getting away for the weekend for fun converge on these areas creating virtual cities. Unfortunately, with the large numbers of people racing and partying, popular areas such as Glamis start to resemble war zones due to accidents caused by reckless drivers.

An ongoing research study being conducted at Rady Children’s Hospital in conjunction with Children’s Hospital of Orange County has found some interesting patterns concerning desert season and off-road vehicle-related injuries in children. The age of those injured ranges from 8 months to 14 years (the cutoff age for trauma being directed toward a children’s hospital). Forty percent of the injuries are fractures and 20 percent of the injuries involved the skull, brain, spine, or other internal injuries. Moreover, about half of the fractures require surgery.

The primary vehicles involved in causing serious injuries are dirt bikes, which account for approximately 45% ; ATVs, quads, and other vehicles make up the rest. Far too many children fail to use proper safety equipment and or lack the safety training in the first instance. The study suggests that the lack of adequate regulation and enforcement is of great concern.