Articles Posted in Punitive Damages

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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

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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).

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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

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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.

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54885721Union Tribune reporter Pauline Repard reported that in San Diego County and statewide, fatalities and drivers arrested for drunk driving during the New Year’s weekend were significantly less than a year ago, most likely because it lasted only three days this year as compared to four a year ago. According to CHP officer, Jesse Udovich, there were 60 arrests and one fatality in San Diego over the holiday weekend compared to last year when there were 101 DUI arrests and three fatalities. Statewide there were 961 drunk driving arrests and 25 DUI related deaths compared to 1388 arrests and 36 deaths a year ago.

Kelly McPherson, 53, of Mission Valley was fatally injured when he tried to walk across Murray Drive in La Mesa at around 1:30 a.m. on January 1, 2011. The driver of the vehicle that hit him, 48-year-old Dana Lohner was later arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

Applicable California Law

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reckless-drivingUNION TRIBUNE reporter Caroline Dipping reported that a 34-year-old woman, her 17-year-old daughter, and the passenger in another vehicle being driven by a suspected drunk driver were injured on November 7, 2010. The accident happened in South Bay, on the 2200 block of Palm Avenue, at around 1:00 a.m.. The unnamed driver of a 2006 BMW was allegedly speeding and driving under the influence, when he sideswiped the victims’ vehicle knocking it into a parked car. According to San Diego Police officer David Stafford, the unnamed woman was taken to the hospital with a broken femur. Her daughter, the driver of the BMW, and his passenger were also taken to the hospital for injuries. The driver was released and arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Applicable California Law

The driver of the BMW will face potential criminal charges for driving under the influence (see my prior Blog post for California’s DIU laws). In addition, he will be liable for the personal injuries sustained by the passenger in his vehicle, and the occupants of the other vehicle. However, his passenger’s claim will be reduced if she knew he was driving under the influence and chose to drive with him, thus contributing to her own injuries. If the conduct of the driver of the BMW was reckless enough to constitute gross negligence, he could also be liable for punitive damages (see my prior Blog post in California’s law on punitive damages).

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SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE reporter Dana Littlefield reported that Kelley Fritz a 12-year-old Hemet girl, was killed in a head-on collision on September 25, 2010, at around 9:30 p.m.. The girl, who had been visiting family in San Diego, was a passenger in a 1956 Volkswagen Beetle, which was traveling on state Route 76 near East Vista Way, when her father Rudy Fritz,45, lost control and veered into oncoming traffic hitting a Buick. Both the victim and her father were not wearing seat-belts and were ejected from their vehicle. The teen was pronounced dead at the scene. Her father was airlifted to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and the driver and passenger of the Buick were taken to Palomar Medical Center for treatment. Mr Fritz was subsequently arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs according to information from NORTH COUNTY TIMES reporter Teri Figueroa.

Our sympathy goes out to the teen’s mother, family, and friends.

Applicable California Law

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SAN DIEGO NEWS 10 reported that four people were injured as a result of a high speed chase with a Carlsbad police officer on September 22, 2010. The incident began at around 1:30 p.m. when a Carlsbad police officer was investigating a report of a Honda accord being driven recklessly while its occupants were throwing debris at passing vehicles. According to Carlsbad Police Lt. Marc Reno, the 17-year-old driver of the Accord did not yield to the investigating officer and the pursuit began. The teen driver hit a sign on the off-ramp while exiting Interstate 5 at Carlsbad Village Drive and then hit a Jeep stopped at the light at Monroe Street. The woman driving the Jeep and one of the passengers in the Accord were transported to Palomar Medical Center. Two others, who sustained serious injuries were flown to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. Further investigation will determine if drugs were involved, as drug paraphernalia was found in the Accord.

Applicable California Law

The driver of the Accord will face potential criminal charges for reckless driving, evading a police officer and possibly driving under the influence. In addition, he will be liable for any damage to property, personal injury to his passengers and the woman in the Jeep, as well as possible punitive damages for gross negligence ( see my prior Blog post for the law on punitive damages). If his passengers participated in, and or contributed to his reckless conduct, or contributed to causing their own injuries, their claims would be reduced accordingly. If the Carlsbad police officer followed their policy and procedure for high speed pursuit he and the city would be immune from any liability.

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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.

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UNION TRIBUNE Staff Writer Susan Shroder reported that an unnamed 21-year-old man lost control of his motorcycle causing a collision with another motorcycle rider. The accident happened on July 16, 2010, at around 6:25 p.m., on Carroll Canyon road near Businesspark Avenue, according to officer David Stafford. The southbound Harley-Davidson’s diver, allegedly traveling at a high rate of speed, lost control and the bike slid into another Harley-Davidson, being driven by a 25-year-old man heading northbound on Carroll Canyon. Both riders were taken to local trauma centers to be treated for serious injuries, according to Stafford. The incident is under further investigation by the department’s Traffic Division, to determine if charges may be filed in the future.

According to CHP’s 2008 Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), there were 16 fatalities and 355 injuries involving motorcycle accidents in San Diego. In San Diego County as a whole, 51 people died and 1,081 were injured as a result of motorcycle accidents during thesame year.

Applicable California Law