Passenger who urged driver to speed up may be liable for resulting death

July 1st, 2015

Riverside, California, UNITED STATES June 23, 2015:

A California Court of Appeals panel has held that a passenger who urged a driver to drive so fast the vehicle became airborne, could potentially be held liable for foreseeable injuries suffered by passersby when the driver lost control of his car. Navarette v. Meyer, Fourth Distr. Ct. App. D067454 .

Hayley Meyer was a passenger in a car driven by Brandon Coleman. Meyer suggested Coleman take a particular residential street posted for a 25 mph speed limit as a shortcut. Meyer had driven that way many times, and knew dips in the roadway would cause a speeding car to become airborne. Meyer told Coleman about how the dips could send a car airborne, and urged Coleman to attempt the feat. Shortly after Coleman turned onto the street, Meyer urged him to “go faster.” Coleman accelerated, and his car became airborne. Coleman lost control. His car hit a parked vehicle. Esteban Soto, standing next to the parked car, was crushed between the two vehicles and killed.

Soto’s wife Miriam Navarrete and three children filed a wrongful death action against both Coleman and Meyer. As to Meyer, the family alleged civil conspiracy and violation of Vehicle Code §21701, which provides that no person “shall willfully interfere with the driver of a vehicle or with the mechanism thereof in such manner as to affect the driver’s control of the vehicle.”

The trial court granted summary judgment for Meyer, finding no evidence to suggest Meyer’s urging Coleman to drive faster either affected Coleman’s control over the vehicle, or established a conspiracy.The appellate panel reversed, holding Soto’s family’s complaint raised issues of fact requiring a jury’s determination.

In its opinion, the appellate panel noted the evidence at trial could support a jury finding Coleman accelerated the vehicle at Meyer’s request. For purposes of joint liability, a jury would need to decide whether Meyer urged Coleman with enough force to constitute an unlawful exhibition of speed, as prohibited by Vehicle Code §23109. The court held that
the sort of injury that resulted from Coleman’s unlawful conduct, i.e., Coleman’s car losing control, striking another vehicle and harming a pedestrian, was foreseeable, and the very sort of harm that §23109 was designed to prevent.

Private investigators have an important role to play in cases like this,” says John A. DeMarr, P.I., a licensed California private investigator since 1988. www.demarr.com

“Having a licensed experienced private investigator nail down testimony and establish the facts surrounding an accident such as this can determine who wins or loses the case.”

“Gathering information quickly in cases based on witness testimony is crucial” says John A. DeMarr, P.I., a licensed California private investigator since 1988. “Our 30 years of experience make all the difference – in the service levels and innovative approaches we can offer our clients.”

“You need to gather all the facts as well as interview and record the witness statements right away,” DeMarr says. “Our memories are complicated, and recording the version of events as recalled by the parties and other percipient witnesses is critical and important evidence in the case.”

Private investigators can work cases like this directly with attorneys, and also independently,” says DeMarr. To learn more about what a private investigator can do to assist you, contact John A. DeMarr, P.I., at (877) 433-6277.

Or go to: www.demarr.com