Hit-And-Run Driver Settles Wrongful Death Suit


Santa Barbara News-Press

January 7, 2014

A driver who killed a high school baseball coach in a Highway 101 hit-and-run has agreed to pay the victim’s mother $30,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit settlement finalized Monday.

Convicted hit-and-run driver Lau Van Huynh and two family members who owned the car he was driving agreed to pay Ana Quintanar, mother of the late Simon Chavez, the $30,000 policy limit of their insurance.

Attorneys in the case were in court Monday morning for a brief hearing in which Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne found that the settlement was reached in good faith, finalizing the agreement. Judge Sterne found that the Huynhs have limited, if any, liability in the death, and $30,000 is not “grossly disproportionate” to what a reasonable person would estimate that liability to be.

Judge Sterne came to her decision Monday over objections from attorneys for Absolute Cab, who according to court filings, contend there’s currently no way to determine the Huynhs’ share of damages.

Ms. Noël said the Huynhs do not have any other assets.

With the lawsuit continuing against the cab company, the company owner and cab driver, attorneys will be going through the full-blown pre-trial process and a trial date could soon be set, said Ms. Noël.

Mr. Chavez, who was 22 at the time of his death, was in downtown Santa Barbara drinking with friends Jan. 14, 2013, and was sent home in a cab driven by Thomas Rhyne, according to the lawsuit.

But about a mile from his destination, Mr. Chavez indicated he was going to be sick and exited the cab at the intersection of Carrillo and De la Vina streets.

The taxi remained in the street for a period before the driver drove into a nearby parking lot, taking the vehicle out of Mr. Chavez’s view. The lawsuit contends that was an act of negligence.

With the taxi no longer in view, Mr. Chavez continued walking toward his destination. Rather than signaling the pedestrian or calling authorities, Mr. Rhyne drove off, the lawsuit contends.

While on foot, Mr. Chavez walked west on Carrillo Street toward Highway 101, eventually making his way onto the southbound onramp.

Mr. Chavez was walking between the No. 2 and 3 southbound lanes when Mr. Huynh drove into him. Mr. Huynh was heading back to Murrieta from the Chumash Casino and was having trouble staying awake during the drive, according to the lawsuit.

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