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‘Parental malpractice’ charged in suit over surfer’s death

A civil lawsuit filed over the death of professional surfer Emery Kauanui is taking an unusual approach: naming the parents of the five young men charged in the case.

“There is no case that I’m aware of that has been like this against the parents,” said Craig McClellan, the attorney representing the slain La Jollan’s mother. “We call it ‘parental malpractice.’ ”

He explained, “Although parental responsibility laws have always existed in the United States, they are considered to be a relatively new concept in the American legal system.”

Typically associated with compulsory school attendance and criminal nonsupport laws, parents or guardians who fail to exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection and control over their children can be held liable for any damages they cause.

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McClellan contends that the parents took no action to discipline, correct or teach their kids right from wrong. So it’s that conduct he said that is the subject of the lawsuit. Filed on July 22 in San Diego Superior Court, it names the men charged in the criminal case as well as their parents. It also names Barkandbrew Inc., doing business as the La Jolla Brew House, and its owner, Claudette Mannix, for serving beer to two of the defendants.

The parents named are William Hughes Cravens, Karen J. Cravens, Lisa C. Walchef, Edna Ivette Osuna Labrenz, Ramon Sandovoal Germez, Giancarlo M. Yanke and Rachel Yanke.

According to McClellan’s office, none of the defendants have hired attorneys to defend them in the civil case.

Defendants Orlando Osuna and Mathew Yanke both pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, while Henri Hendricks pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact. In addition, Osuna and Yanke pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery charges stemming from previous unrelated assaults. All other charges against the four have been dismissed and sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 5.

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Seth Cravens is the only defendant in the case to reject the prosecution’s plea offer. He re-entered a not-guilty plea and has been ordered to face additional charges of making a criminal threat, battery and assault causing great bodily harm in connection with a series of unrelated incidents dating back to 2004.

Cravens, the only one still in custody, is scheduled to stand trial on Aug. 22. If convicted he faces 15 years to life in prison.

“Every mother and father hopes that when a tragedy like this happens that something positive will come of it,” McClellan said. “That something positive is that it might prevent another death like this from occurring, because parents, be they from La Jolla or elsewhere, are going to sit up, pay attention and start doing something if they figure that they’re on the line themselves.”

He said he believes this case is unique because these laws have normally been applied in cases related to minors. In this instance, all of the defendants were older than 18 when Kauanui died.

The complaint is now being served on the defendants. They will have 30 days to respond and then the action starts in the form of depositions. Afterwards, the court will call a conference and schedule a trial.