The family of a Montecito woman who was struck and killed by a motorist last year as she walked to her Coast Village Road bus stop has filed a wrongful death civil suit against the driver and his parents. The suit is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.
Wolfgang Schulz, the husband of Florinda Garcia Flores, filed a civil suit last month against Tyler Fourmy, 18, and his parents, Patrick Fourmy and Susan Granziera, all of Santa Barbara. Flores, 47, was struck and killed on May 27, 2010, as she was walking on the sidewalk near her home.
Fourmy, who was 17 at the time of the collision, told authorities at the scene that the minivan he was driving had swerved and his brakes didn’t work as he traveled west on Coast Village Road near Butterfly Lane at about 7:30 a.m. that day. The vehicle struck Flores, who was walking west to the bus stop in front of Montecito Bank & Trust, 1106 Coast Village Road, then ran through landscaping and hit a wall before crashing into the side of Bank of America, 1096 Coast Village Road.
Flores died of her injuries after the impact of the collision hurled her into the Butterfly Lane intersection.
Fourmy is charged with vehicular manslaughter in Santa Barbara County Juvenile Court. He is also charged with the transportation of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, which were reportedly found in the minivan; three vehicle-code violations related to speeding, turning movements and required signals; and lack of evidence of financial responsibility upon request.
Flores is survived by her husband, her 15-year-old daughter, her mother, two sisters and two brothers, one of whom lives in Santa Barbara. She was financially supporting family in Mexico, and her daughter and sister are listed as plaintiffs on the civil suit.
Flores and Schulz, who is the property manager and maintenance supervisor at Villa Fontana, 1150 Coast Village Road, lived in a studio apartment in the luxury complex just a minute’s walk from the bus stop where she died.
“She was a wonderful wife,” Schulz told Noozhawk. “Of course I miss her a lot. She was my dream — the nicest woman I knew in my life.”
Flores sent money home to her family from her jobs taking care of several Villa Fontana residents. Now, Schulz sends money to the family when he can and has plans to visit them for two weeks in May, on the anniversary of his wife’s death.
“We had a beautiful time together,” said Schulz, who warmly recalled showing his wife around California. Feb. 27 was the seven-year anniversary of the day the couple met.
Schulz said going to concerts and parks were favorite activities of the couple, and he and his wife always enjoyed having something to do on Sundays. Until a month ago, he kept a memorial with flowers and candles near the intersection where his wife died, but moved it to his apartment’s patio after people started stealing items from it.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Santa Barbara attorney Jeffrey Young on behalf of Schulz and the family, alleges that Flores’ family “sustained (monetary) loss resulting from the loss of society, comfort, attention, services and financial support of (Flores),” as well as funeral and burial expenses, documents state. Click here for a copy of the lawsuit.
The amended complaint alleges that Fourmy was negligent and his parents were negligent for entrusting an “unfit driver” with a motor vehicle in “defective condition.”
The lawsuit alleges that Fourmy’s parents knew the minivan — a 1995 Toyota Previa — had defective brake and steering systems. The Santa Barbara Police Department traffic investigation team conducted a mechanical inspection of the minivan but has not released information on its findings.
As Noozhawk reported previously, within two months of the accident, the vehicle was mistakenly transported to Ventura to be destroyed, which police traffic investigator Officer Mark Hunt discovered when he went to get more pictures of the minivan, only to find it missing. The towing company responsible, Smitty’s Towing, has since been suspended from police-related work for a year as a result of its actions.
The lawsuit alleges that the Fourmys should have known their son “was a careless and reckless driver of cars and a habitual user of drugs and alcohol” and that the “chronic use of drugs and alcohol can impair one’s ability to safely drive a motor vehicle.”
At the scene, Fourmy volunteered a blood sample and did not appear to be under the influence of any controlled substance, authorities have said. He was cited and released at the time and the criminal case was filed against him in November.
Fourmy could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit.
Patrick Fourmy, who declined to make a statement to Noozhawk on the record, is the owner of the Compassion Center, a medical marijuana dispensary at 2915 De la Vina St.
The Compassion Center was denied an operating permit late last year but Patrick Fourmy is appealing the decision to the City Council in April. Of the city’s three available dispensary permits, two are taken — by Pacific Coast Collective and the Santa Barbara Patients Group — and Patrick Fourmy is the lone applicant for the third.
The city of Santa Barbara has filed a lawsuit against him, alleging that the dispensary is nonconforming and ineligible for a permit. Court dates are tentatively scheduled for the summer.
Fourmy’s identity has been known to Noozhawk since last year, but it was not disclosed previously because Noozhawk’s confirmations of the name had all been off-the-record.
At a Feb. 18 juvenile court hearing, Judge Thomas Adams allowed a Noozhawk reporter and a Noozhawk photographer to sit in on the proceedings because of the nature of the allegations against the defendant. It was in the courtroom that Noozhawk was able to confirm the identity.
Adams and the attorneys present discussed whether, in reporting on the juvenile court proceedings, the driver’s name should be disclosed, but Adams asked Noozhawk not to publish it at that time. Noozhawk complied with Adams’ request at the time but maintained that it was within its rights to identify the defendant.
As civil case court documents are public record under state law, Noozhawk is identifying Fourmy as part of that case. Fourmy turned 18 in October and the civil lawsuit was filed Feb. 2 with an amended complaint filed Feb. 18.
Noozhawk reporters and editors follow guidelines published in Noozhawk’s own style manual as well as the Associated Press Stylebook. The issue of identification of juvenile defendants is addressed specifically.
“As a general rule, we do not name juveniles who are arrested for, charged with, or convicted of minor crimes,” the Noozhawk style manual reads. “Generally, we will name juveniles who are involved in serious and/or violent crimes.”
After the Feb. 18 juvenile court hearing, Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen said the publication would comply with Adams’ immediate request in the criminal case, but he notified Adams that Noozhawk intended to report fully on the civil lawsuit — including Fourmy’s name.
“We do steadfastly believe that minors merit the highest level of privacy protection,” Macfadyen said Feb. 18. “But the nature of the collision, the high-visibility location and the severity of the charges — and the fact that the defendant is now an adult — outweigh the concerns of confidentiality. We believe the public has the right to know who this defendant is.”
Macfadyen stood by that decision.
“After consulting with legal counsel, we believe that we have the right to publish the names of minors involved in such incidents, and we also have the right to publish the names of those named in civil lawsuits,” he said last week. “In fact, the civil suit was filed against three adults.”
The criminal case is being handled by Senior Deputy District Attorney Von Nguyen and Fourmy is being represented by public defender Mark Saatjian. Fourmy has not yet “admitted or denied” the charges, which is the juvenile court’s equivalent of an arraignment and entering a plea, Nguyen said. The next scheduled court date is March 25.