Could a vehicle passenger be responsible for paying damages in a car accident lawsuit? According to a recent California Court of Appeals case, the answer seems to be yes.
In 2009, Brandon Coleman was driving a car with two passengers on the way to a drug store. As the car traveled over a hilly road which was known to have many dips, the front seat passenger, Hayley Meyer, encourage Coleman to go faster in an attempt to get airborne. Even though the speed limit was only 25 m.p.h., the car reached speeds of up to 80 m.p.h. Coleman hit a dip, lost control of the vehicle, and crashed the vehicle into Esteban Soto. Soto’s legs were severed by the vehicle, and he died from his injuries.
After the accident, Soto’s wife Miriam Navarrete initially filed a lawsuit against the driver, Coleman, and against the county. After evidence emerged that Meyer had encouraged Coleman to drive recklessly, Navarrete amended her complaint to include Meyer.
At first, Navarrete’s complaint against Meyer was dismissed. On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that California law would allow a jury to find that two people could act in concert to commit a wrongful act. The court found that the two could be jointly liable in an act of civil conspiracy to commit a crime (reckless driving), which means that the complaint against Meyer will be able to proceed.
Though most car accident lawsuits do not involve charges of conspiracy, the evidence in this case was clear that the passenger contributed to the driver’s reckless behavior. Moving forward, people who are injured as a result of an accident may be able to pursue damages against anyone who influenced the driver to make poor decisions, like driving recklessly or driving while intoxicated.
At the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., we know how important it is for injured people to win compensation in order to recover for their injuries. Cases like these allow our attorneys to pursue damages against everyone responsible for your injuries—not just the driver.
If you or your loved one was injured in an accident, you have important rights that you need to protect. For a free consultation about these rights and your legal options, contact us today by calling (310) 289-2600.