Case details

Intoxicated driver being chased struck other car





Result type

Not present

On Oct. 6, 2013, plaintiffs’ decedent Dustin Courts, 28, was driving in Temecula. His vehicle entered the intersection of Rancho California Road and Margarita Road and was struck by a vehicle operated by Angel Lopez, who was driving under the influence of alcohol and attempting to flee from another vehicle, which was being driven by James Lee. Courts sustained traumatic and died at the hospital five days later. Courts’ parents, Jeffory Courts and Katherine Courts, and siblings, Nathan Courts, Tracy Courts and Torey Courts, sued Lopez; Lee; a party believed to be an owner of Lee’s vehicle, Lee’s wife, Jane Young Lee; and the actual owner of Mr. Lopez’s vehicle, Elvia Vasquez Lopez. The lawsuit alleged that Mr. Lopez and Mr. Lee were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles, that Ms. Lee was vicariously liable for Mr. Lee’s actions, and that Ms. Lopez was vicariously liable for Mr. Lopez’s actions. Nathan Courts, Tracy Courts and Torey Court were ultimately removed as plaintiffs, and Ms. Lee was dismissed via summary judgment. The matter continued with the claims of Jeffory Courts and Katherine Courts against Mr. Lopez, Ms. Lopez and Mr. Lee. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that, prior to the collision with Dustin Courts’ vehicle, Mr. Lopez rear-ended Mr. Lee’s vehicle and that Lopez, who was driving under the influence of alcohol, attempted to flee the scene as Lee chased him in an act of road rage. Counsel argued Lopez was “afraid for his life” and drove faster in an attempt to get away from Lee. Thus, counsel argued that even though Lopez was going to jail for his involvement in the first accident and fled the scene of the first crash, Lee’s chase of Lopez’s vehicle caused the second crash. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Lee was speeding and driving recklessly as he chased Lopez into the intersection and that Lee was so careless that he even rear-ended a motorcycle. Counsel also contended that the collision between Lopez and Courts, and Lee and the motorcycle near the scene, occurred simultaneously, which suggested that Lee was in hot pursuit and very close to Lopez at the time of the second crash. Plaintiffs’ counsel argued that, as result, the fatal collision would not have occurred, but for the chase. Lee’s counsel contended that Lee was following Lopez in a safe manner, to obtain the license plate information from Lopez’s vehicle and that there was no evidence that Lee did anything wrong. Counsel argued that Lopez was intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.21, so Lopez would have been unable to determine if someone was chasing him. Counsel also argued that Lopez was on a trajectory course of action and that Lee’s conduct played no role in Lopez’s decisions to flee, fail to stop and run a red light. Thus, Lee’s counsel argued that there was zero liability on Lee, as Lee did not do anything wrong, was not negligent and was acting as a reasonably prudent person would have acted in the scenario. Lopez admitted that he was partially at fault for the fatal crash but claimed that Lee was also to blame for chasing him and making him run the red light. Lopez’s counsel contended that Lee was so close to Lopez’s vehicle that it scared Lopez, which caused Lopez to make the mistake of driving straight into the intersection against a red light and strike Courts’ vehicle., Courts sustained traumatic and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead five days later. He was 28 years old. He was survived by his father, mother and three siblings. Nathan Courts’ parents sought recovery of wrongful-death damages for the loss of their son. They also sought recovery of punitive damages against Mr. Lee because of his alleged recklessness in chasing Lopez, which resulted in Lopez striking Nathan Courts’ vehicle. Lopez’s counsel contested the extent of the damages.
Superior Court of Riverside County, Riverside, CA

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