Girl hurt in La Jolla ‘drifting’ crash sues driver

From U-T reports, filed by Public Safety reporter Pauline Repard

An attorney for a 14-year-old girl who was badly injured in a La Jolla crash Oct. 26 filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the 16-year-old driver who was carrying 15 teenage passengers in an SUV.

The suit also names the driver’s parents, saying they are responsible for letting him use their Ford Expedition to take friends to a party even though his provisional license barred him from having passengers without an adult along.

Three of the youths suffered major injuries, while others were less seriously hurt in the high-speed rollover on Muirlands Vista Way. Most of the victims are La Jolla High School students.

San Diego police investigators said the driver was going 40 mph on a curve and tried to put the SUV into a slide maneuver called “drifting.”

“What seemed like, to these children, innocent events turned in a matter of minutes to a near-disaster,” attorney Dwight Ritter said Wednesday.

He filed the suit in San Diego Superior Court on behalf of Gabrielle Cabrera, seeking damages for current and future medical expenses and wage loss. No dollar amount was specified.

Cabrera suffered a laceration to her head that took 30 stitches to close and a back injury, Ritter said.

The lawsuit alleges the young driver was negligent and reckless, and disregarded the safety of his passengers. They were not wearing seat belts.

U-T San Diego is not naming the driver because he is a minor possibly facing criminal charges. His father, contacted by phone Wednesday, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Police Detective Dan Wall said he has concluded his investigation into the wreck and is not at this time sending a case against the driver for prosecution.

He said he could issue tickets for speeding, going 40 mph in a 25 mph zone, for having passengers not in seat belts, and for violating terms of his provisional license, which he had held for about a month.

However, Wall said, the Department of Motor Vehicles has already imposed the same penalty on the youth that he would face in traffic court, the suspension or revocation of his license. Wall said he is not legally permitted to reveal the actual penalty imposed on a juvenile.

He said his strategy was to let the DMV process accomplish the same result without taking the boy to court for traffic infractions.

“In the event any child dies as a result of injuries they suffered in the accident, I couldn’t touch him if I give him a ticket now,” Wall said. “It would be double jeopardy. It’s important that everyone understand that.”

Although some teens had been drinking at the party and open alcohol containers were at the crash site, Wall said the driver had not been drinking and showed no symptoms of having used drugs.