The parents of Mallory Rae Dies have filed a lawsuit against Rep. Lois Capps, the U.S. government and Raymond Morua over the Dec. 11, 2013, death of their daughter.
Matthew and Raeona Dies claim that Morua, the driver who pleaded guilty to fatally injuring their 27-year-old daughter, was on the job as a legislative aide to Capps, D-Santa Barbara, at the time of the accident.
Morua was under the influence at the time of the collision and left the scene, driving at high speeds down to the waterfront before he crashed into a palm tree.
Dies suffered significant head trauma and was in critical condition for five days before her family took her off life support.
Due to prior DUI convictions, he was charged with murder and ultimately pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and other charges.
He faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.
In the federal complaint, Dies’ parents allege that Morua was attending the Santa Barbara Independent holiday party as part of his job representing Capps.
The office doesn't routinely conduct background checks, and his actions leading to this tragedy were inexcusable, Capps' office said in a statement.
Attorney Robert Stoll said the lawsuit claims that Morua was within the scope of his job at the time and place of the accident.
To make a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act, someone must show that the damage was done by a federal government employee, the employee was acting within the scope of his official duties, and the employee was acting negligently or wrongly, which caused the alleged damage or injury.
Stoll filed a claim, the precursor to a lawsuit, in December, and normal procedure is to have the House of Representatives counsel decide whether to deny or accept the claim.
It's essentially the same process used by Santa Barbara County.
Capps' office can't comment on pending legal matters, spokesman Chris Meagher said.
"It is our understanding that no determination has been made relative to any claim related to these events," he said, meaning the House counsel hasn't responded to the claim yet.
Morua had a “long and publicly known history of alcohol and drug abuse and a well-documented public history of operating automobiles while under the influence of drugs and alcohol,” the claim says.
He has a driving history of numerous California Vehicle Code violations, and has “caused multiple prior vehicle collisions” according to the claim.
It alleges that Capps and the other defendants hired Morua even though they knew Morua wasn’t qualified to safely drive a vehicle as part of his work duties. It also claims the defendants didn’t properly monitor or supervise Morua.
The family’s complaint alleges negligence by all parties led to Mallory’s death.
Considering his driving history and “dangerous tendencies,” it was “highly foreseeable” Morua would cause a serious vehicle collision resulting in serious injury or death to members of the public, but he was still hired and required to drive as part of his job, the lawsuit alleges.
Dies’ parents want a jury trial, and are asking for general damages, funeral and burial expenses, hospital expenses, economic damages and punitive damages.
The lawsuit was filed in the Central District of California of the U.S District Court.
Stoll filed the case on Monday, a week after Morua pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and other charges.