Santa Barbara, Calif.–Santa Barbara County and Santa Barbara County Sherriff’s Department have agreed to pay a $4.8 million settlement to the survivors and their parents of a 2009 wrong way driver accident that took two lives and seriously injured two others (Jose. A. Arredondo, et al. vs. Santa Barbara County Sherriff’s Dept., County of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Superior Court, Case No. 1370977). Pursuant to the settlement, a case Notice of Entry of Dismissal was filed September 28, 2012.
In the early hours of November 8, 2009, Jose Arredondo was driving on the southbound U.S. 101 near Goleta. Plaintiff Marina Murillo was with him in the vehicle. Arredondo was followed by his and Murillo’s 18-year-old son, Marcos Arredondo, who was driving a 2000 Honda Accord. Marcos’ sisters, Yessica and Karina Arredondo, were riding in the backseat and another individual was riding in the passenger seat. An intoxicated driver, Richard Rodriguez, entered the 101 freeway south of the Arredondos and began driving the wrong way (north) on the southbound 101.
Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Rodgers was in the vicinity and responded to a report of a wrong way driver. “Sheriff’s deputies are not trained to respond to wrong way drivers on the freeway. It’s the CHP’s jurisdiction and responsibility,” says A. Barry Cappello, managing partner of the Santa Barbara law firm Cappello & Noël and one of the lawyers who represented the Arredondo family. “The sheriff’s actions were in violation of department policy and his negligent actions resulted in this tragedy.”
According to the lawsuit filed against the county and sheriff’s department, Rodgers entered the 101 and merged very slowly into the number two (slow) lane directly in front of the Arredondos. Rodgers failed to signal or to put on his overhead flashing lights or siren signaling there was an emergency. Jose Arredondo was forced to quickly change lanes to the number one (fast) lane to avoid colliding with Rodgers. This put Arredondo directly in the path of Rodriguez’ oncoming wrong way vehicle. Marcos Arredondo followed his father’s vehicle into the number one lane.
“After the Arredondo vehicles passed Rogers, he finally turned on his flashing lights and siren. Jose assumed he was being pulled over,” says Cappello. “He moved over to lane two just as Rodriguez’ car zoomed by, barely missing him. Rodriguez then slammed head on into the vehicle driven by Marcos. Marcos died of his injuries as did the individual in the passenger seat. Yessica and Karina Arredondo, who were minors at the time, sustained brain, spinal cord, pelvic and other injuries that will last a lifetime. Their parents witnessed it all.”
“By his actions, Rodgers turned a hazardous condition into a deadly one,” says Leila J. Noël, who represented the plaintiffs with Cappello. “He became a danger by pulling in front of the Arredondos at an extremely slow speed and not using his signals, siren or flashing lights. He literally forced the Arredondos into the path of the wrong-way driver. Numerous other vehicles in the number two lane safely passed Rodriguez; if Rodgers had not operated his vehicle in a negligent manner, the accident would not have occurred.”
The vast majority of the settlement money