Case details

Parents claimed intoxication of son’s driver caused fatal crash





Result type

Not present

death, loss of society
On Nov. 20, 2011, plaintiffs’ decedent, Clayton Coleman, 21, a farm apprentice, was a passenger in a vehicle operated by his best friend, Soren Laney, 19. As they entered the intersection of Rose Avenue and Zediker Avenue in an unincorporated Fresno County, an eastbound vehicle collided into the passenger side of Laney’s car, causing traumatic to Coleman, who subsequently died. Medical blood draws were performed on both Coleman and Laney, and it was revealed that both young men had alcohol in their system at the time of the crash. Laney told the police officer that he and Coleman drank shots of Everclear earlier in the day and that Coleman purchased the alcohol for the both of them. In addition, a partially consumed 750-milliliter bottle of Everclear (151-proof) was found inside Laney’s vehicle. Laney ultimately pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter while under the influence, and was granted probation. The decedent’s parents, David Coleman and Kathleen Coleman, sued Soren Laney; the driver of the other vehicle, Maverick Bruno; and the registered owner of Soren Laney’s vehicle, Carol Laney. The decedent’s parents alleged that Mr. Laney and Bruno were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles, and that Ms. Laney was vicariously liable for Mr. Laney’s actions. Prior to the trial, Bruno settled with the Colemans and Ms. Laney was dismissed from the case. Thus, the matter proceeded to trial against Mr. Laney only. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Mr. Laney was negligent for driving under the influence of alcohol and failing to yield at a stop sign prior to entering the intersection. While Mr. Laney admitted, at the time of trial, to causing the collision, he argued comparative negligence and blamed the decedent for getting into the vehicle with him in the first place. During his deposition, Mr. Laney stated that, as a minor, he could not purchase alcohol and that it was the 21-year-old decedent who purchased the alcohol for the both of them. He alleged that both he and the decedent began drinking Everclear at his house, starting the night before the incident, as well as hours before the crash. Mr. Laney claimed that he only gave into the pressure and drove after the decedent insisted that they leave the house and go somewhere. Thus, Mr. Laney’s counsel argued that the decedent was negligent for furnishing the alcohol, for encouraging Mr. Laney to drive, for knowing that Mr. Laney was under the influence, and for deciding to get into the car with Mr. Laney., Clayton Coleman sustained multiple traumatic in the crash and was subsequently taken to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, where life-saving treatment was performed. Nonetheless, he died approximately one week after the collision. The decedent’s mother and father, who were divorced, sought recovery of damages for the loss of love, comfort, affection, society and moral support of their only son, 21-year-old Clayton. They also sought recovery of damages for funeral expenses, as well as past hospital bills for the one week the decedent was in the hospital. Mr. Laney was also injured in the crash and taken to a hospital. His counsel presented evidence that the decedent was homeless and, according to friends, had lost contact with both of his parents. Witnesses also testified that the decedent was living in a tent outside various businesses for several months before the crash.
Superior Court of Fresno County, Fresno, CA

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