Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Drunk civil litigant gets jury result in California

California DUI criminal defense attorneys news

A Santa Maria jury Tuesday concluded that a California Highway Patrol officer sued by a paraplegic Orcutt woman was partly responsible for causing her harm, and acted with negligence.

The jury, however, laid the majority of the responsibility for injuring Melisa Camp on the driver of the Ford Mustang that flipped on Aug. 29, 2003, at East Main Street and Philbric Road, East of Santa Maria, leaving Camp severely injured. Camp was a passenger in the car. The driver, Ryan Funk, was driving under the influence of alcohol at the time. He testified during the trial that he was ultimately charged with felony driving under the influence, to which he entered a plea and for which he served a sentence, California DUI lawyer report.

Jurors found that Funk, Camp and fellow passenger Raymond Medina were also negligent, and this negligence was a substantial factor in hurting Camp.

CHP Officer Frank Lewis is named in the lawsuit filed by Camp along with his employer, the state of California. Lewis responded to the crash.

Camp, 35, is permanently paralyzed from the waist down, but the cause of her paralysis was in dispute. Her attorney, Tom Stolpman, said the evidence would show that Camp was carried twice after the crash by a friend and her husband, which worsened her injuries.

Lewis should have assessed Camp's condition, he said, and recognized that Camp would suffer further injury by being moved.

Meanwhile, attorneys for Lewis and the state have said the evidence would show that Camp was paralyzed before officers arrived at the accident. The attorneys have said that nothing officers did caused or aggravated Camp's injuries.

The jury returned with their verdict Tuesday afternoon in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, after deliberating for several days. The trial began April 2.

Jurors were given 22 questions to address in their deliberations.

Their verdict dealt only with the liability portion of the trial, and they are set to begin hearing evidence today regarding the awarding of damages in the case.

Funk was driving Camp, Medina and Lori Barker to their individual homes from Louie B's bar in Santa Maria the morning of the crash. Funk was drunk and unlicensed, driving the Mustang at 90 mph around a curve, according to court documents per California DUI attorneys.

The Mustang flipped off the road, rolled end-over-end and landed on its wheels in an agricultural field. All the occupants reportedly left the car without assistance.

Shortly after, Lewis and another CHP officer arrived at the accident scene.

Camp was carried by Medina to a waiting car, according to trial testimony.

Lewis assessed Camp's condition at the scene of the accident, the jury found, but was negligent in doing so. This negligence was a substantial factor in aggravating the injuries that Camp suffered in the roll-over crash, according to the verdict.

When Lewis inquired about her condition at the scene, Camp denied that she was injured, the jury said, and indicated to the officer that she did not want an ambulance.

The jury found that Lewis ordered the occupants of the vehicle that crashed to leave the scene of the accident, and was negligent in these actions. His order substantially aggravated Camp's injuries, according to the jury.

Lewis did not order the car's occupants to leave the crash aftermath under threat of arrest as the plaintiff alleged, the jury found.

According to court documents and the jury, Funk bears 70 percent of the responsibility for causing Camp harm, Lewis has 15 percent, Camp has 13 percent and Medina carries 2 percent of the responsibility, California DUI attorneys understand.