Passenger Paying for Advice That Led to Fatal Car Wreck

     (CN) – A California appeals court revived civil claims against a woman whose driving advice led a car to become airborne and kill a man who was strapping his child into a car seat.
     Miriam Naverette and her minor children brought the case in question in Riverside County Superior Court over the Nov. 26, 2009, death of Esteban Soto.
     They say Soto was putting one of the children into a parked vehicle on Skyview Drive when a car going up to 81 mph came careening at him.
     Soto’s legs were severed and he died.
     Brandon Coleman had been driving the car that hit Soto, taking Skyview Drive as a “shortcut,” according to the ruling.
     Coleman’s front-seat passenger, Haley Meyer, had recommended taking Skyview.
     Though Skyview is a residential street with a speed limit of 25 mph, Meyer admits that she urged Coleman to drive fast on the its dips so that the vehicle would become airborne, the decision notes.
     Coleman sped up though his passenger in the backset, Levi Calhoun, warned that going airborne could “mess up the car.”
     The Navarettes had originally sued Coleman and the county but they later amended the lawsuit to include Meyer.
     Finding “no evidence to suggest that Meyer’s act of telling Mr. Coleman to drive faster affected Mr. Coleman’s control of the vehicle,” however, the trial court granted Meyer summary judgment on the Navarettes’ claims of conspiracy and vehicle code violations.
     A three-judge panel with the Fourth Appellate District reversed late last month. “Meyer was familiar with Skyview Drive and its unique characteristics, and a reasonable fact finder could readily infer that she knew other vehicles could be parked or other people could be present on such a residential street,” Justice Terry O’Rourke wrote for the court.
     Meyer’s encouragement of Coleman to speed was “clearly wrong,” the court found.
     “The sort of injury that ensued from Coleman’s unlawful conduct – the car losing traction or control and striking another vehicle or person on the residential street – was foreseeable, and is the very sort of harm the statute was designed to prevent,” O’Rourke wrote.

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