(Tyler, TX Jan 15, 2020) Tyler police have arrested a 19-year-old for causing a crash, sending three people to the hospital Monday night. Shortly after midnight, police were called to the 10700 block o f highway 271, where 19-year-old Jasmine Gonzalez in a Mercedes-Benz was driving Southbound in the Northbound lanes of 271 when she collided head-on with a Nissan Sentra, occupied by a 35-year-old mother and her two children, aged 13 and 8. The mother and 8-year-old are currently in critical condition, the 13 year old is in stable condition. Gonzalez was charged with two counts of intoxicated assault with a vehicle and remains in the Smith County jail awaiting bond.
(El Paso Jan 12, 2020) A motorcyclist was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver late Thursday January 11th. The incident happened at the intersection of Raynor and Randall near downtown El Paso when a Dodge Ram pick-up ran a red light and struck the motorcycle. The victim, Celso Manuel Garcia (38) was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the truck, Ivan Romo (27) was arrested at the scene and charged with intoxication manslaughter. He is being held at the county detention facility. Romo, is currently a soldier stationed at Ft. Bliss.
Photo Credit: KPRC News
PASADENA, Texas (Jan 3, 2020)– A Motorcycle Crash in Pasadena kills one man and lands another in custody. Police said the crash happened around 3:40 a.m. on Genoa Red Bluff Road between Space Center Boulevard and Red Bluff Road. A speeding motorcyclist heading westbound on Genoa Red Bluff T-boned the passenger side of a small, four-door sedan. The impact caused the sedan and motorcycle to spin and catch on fire. The motorcyclist was thrown from his bike and he was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the car — 30-year-old Stephen Dario Rodriguez — was transported to a hospital and is expected to survive.
Investigators determined Rodriguez had been driving under the influence and was charged with his third DWI. The victim of the crash has been identified as 24-year-old James Hubbs. The incident is still under investigation.
In Texas, drunk driving is taken seriously by lawmakers, police, and prosecutors. Yet, despite the decades-long efforts of government agencies and non-profit organizations, drunk driving is still a major problem in Texas. Indeed, each year there are approximately 17,000 Texas DUI accidents, claiming the lives of nearly 1,000 Texans annually.
While a Texas drunk driver is subject to criminal penalties, they can also be held accountable for their actions through a Texas personal injury lawsuit. To establish that a drunk driver is responsible for an accident victim’s injuries, the accident victim must be able to prove the four elements of a Texas negligence lawsuit: duty, breach, causation, and damages.
Typically, in a lawsuit arising from a Texas drunk driving accident, the elements of duty and breach are often established through the doctrine of negligence per se. Negligence per se is, in essence, a shortcut that lawmakers allow certain accident victims to take when developing their claim. When the elements of negligence per se are met, the defendant is found to have been legally negligent. This satisfies both the duty and breach elements of a negligence claim.
Drunk driving is a serious concern throughout the country, but the issue is even more concerning in Texas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 13,138 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in Texas from 2003 to 2012. The rate of drunk driving deaths was higher in Texas than the national average across all age groups, according to data from 2012. In addition, the percentage of adults who reported driving after drinking too much was higher in Texas than nationally.The CDC recommends that states have harsh drunk driving laws, including zero-tolerance laws, sobriety checkpoints, and ignition-interlock devices installed on cars for all offenders, as well as mass-media campaigns and school-based instructional programs, among other strategies.
Texas DUI Law
All states have drunk driving laws in place to protect the public from drunk drivers. In Texas, the state’s blood-alcohol limit is 0.08% for individuals 21 and older, and 0.04% for commercial drivers. Additionally, there is a zero-tolerance law in effect for individuals younger than 21 years old. Being involved in a DUI accident can have devastating consequences, and individuals who are injured in a Texas drunk driving accident may pursue a claim against the drunk driver to recover compensation for their injuries.
Back in July of this year, three teenagers were involved in a serious Texas car accident after the driver lost control of the vehicle. After losing control of the Nissan Altima, the car veered off the road and into the median, where it slammed head-on into trees that cut the vehicle in half. While the driver survived with relatively minor injuries, both passengers died from the injuries they sustained in the accident.While investigating the fatal accident, police believed the driver to have been under the influence of alcohol. That was confirmed, and the teenage driver was arrested and charged with two counts of intoxication manslaughter. According to a recent news report, authorities have subsequently arrested a 29-year-old gas-station clerk who they believe may have sold the teenage driver fortified wine on the day of the fatal accident. The clerk denies he sold the minor alcohol, claiming that he always checks customers’ identification prior to selling them alcohol.
Dram Shop and Social Host Liability
While the driver involved in this tragic accident may have obtained alcohol from a gas station, more often than not under-age drinkers get alcohol from a friend’s parents or from a bar or restaurant. In some cases, the bartender may be a friend or acquaintance who serves the minor, knowing they are under-age.
In Dao v. Garcia Ex. Rel. Salinas, a man borrowed the defendant’s car to pick up his friend at a restaurant. The defendant and the man were former roommates, friends, and business associates. On the day that the man borrowed the defendant’s car, she’d had dinner with the man and fallen asleep at his apartment. While she was sleeping, he took her keys and drove her car to get his friend at the restaurant. While at the restaurant, he drank part of a glass of wine, one of several he’d consumed that day.
As the man and the friend left the restaurant in the car, they started to go the wrong way on a one-way street. The man then tried to drive across the street to go into a driveway. At that point, Rojelio Salinas came down the street in his moped, and the defendant crashed into him. Salinas died from his injuries. His estate sued the man, the defendant, the restaurant, and another party for negligence.
Included in the causes of action was a claim against the defendant for negligent entrustment. The jury found that the defendant, the man, and the restaurant were negligent, awarding $737,000 in damages. The jury apportioned damages with 10% to the defendant, 5% to the restaurant, and 85% to the man. The court ordered that the defendant and the man were jointly and severally liable for $700,150. The defendant filed a motion for new trial, which was denied on the grounds that it was against the operation of law.
Recently, two children from Irving, Texas were killed in a vehicle crash caused by drunk driving. The tragic twist: the intoxicated person behind the wheel was their own mother.
Crystal Suniga, 30 years old, was driving her 2003 Honda Pilot SUV on a Saturday evening, near Gilbert Elementary School, when she lost control of her car. The SUV then slammed into two cars that were parked in the driveway of a nearby home, before rolling over onto its side and coming to rest against the house.
At the time, Suniga was transporting her four children, who were between the ages 10 and 16 years old. Two of her sons, ages 10 and 14, became pinned under the SUV and ended up dying at the scene of the accident. Her other two children, a 16-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, were taken to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. The 16-year old reportedly suffered serious injuries, while the 12-year old’s injuries were considered to be minor. Suniga suffered only minor injuries.
In a recent tragic episode, three people were killed and two dozen injured after a car plowed into a substantial crowd gathered near an Austin nightclub while the South By Southwest festival was in progress. The driver of the speeding car was allegedly trying to evade the police.
The alleged facts of the situation began just after midnight, when police attempted to stop the driver when he was stopped by a gas station situated near Interstate 35. Then 21-year-old was Rashad Charjuan Owens who was from Killeen, Texas — whom police suspected had been drunk — got into his car and fled authorities. However, Owens went the wrong way down 9th Street in Austin’s downtown. He then blasted through barricades set up by the police and made a right turn onto Red River Street. In the process, he struck several festival goers who had been standing near the Mohawk nightclub following concert at South By Southwest. The car may have been traveling at speeds up to 70 miles per hour.
Police were finally able to reach Owens after his car ran into a taxi and was forced to stop. Owens then allegedly tried to flee the scene, but the police caught him and used Tasers to disable him in a nearby parking lot.
Last month, this blog discussed the case of Ethan Couch, a 16-year old who drove while intoxicated and killed four people in Tarrant County. Couch’s defense attorneys argued that Couch suffered from “affluenza,” or the inability to know right from wrong due to growing up in a wealthy home where he was given everything he wanted. The Tarrant County judge, Jean Boyd, sentenced Couch to probation rather than jail time, which drew outrage from the victims’ families and the general public. District Attorney Joe Shannon had hoped to persuade the judge to reconsider and give jail time for two intoxicated assault charges.
Instead, Judge Boyd confirmed recently that no jail time would be included in Couch’s sentence. Couch will instead be on probation for 10 years, part of which will be spent in a locked rehabilitation facility that could cost Couch’s parents up to $450,000 a year. During probation, Couch cannot drink alcohol, use drugs, or drive. If he violates the terms of probation, he could be sentenced to 10 years in prison. The hearing was closed to journalists and the general public, so there is no knowing whether Judge Boyd elaborated on her reasons for choosing this sentence.
The tragic accident took place in June 2013, after Couch and his friends had allegedly robbed a Wal-Mart store. The teenagers then piled into Couch’s Ford F-350 pickup truck, with some riding in the truck bed. Couch proceeded to drive at 89 miles an hour down the Burelson-Retta road in southern Tarrant County, with a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit of .08. Couch then struck four people on the side of the road — a mother and daughter who had come to pick up a stranded friend, and a pastor who offered to help. All were killed, and two of Couch’s friends flew out of the truck bed and suffered severe injuries. One is unable to speak or move, while the other suffered broken bones and internal injuries.