The defendants in a wrongful death case have sued the Goleta tow-truck company that mistakenly destroyed the minivan involved in the fatal crash in Montecito.
Florinda Flores, 47, was struck and killed on May 27, 2010, as she was walking to her bus stop along the sidewalk on Coast Village Road. Tyler Fourmy, 18, was driving a 1995 Toyota Previa, which he told authorities had steering and braking issues at the time of the early morning collision.
The Santa Barbara Police Department impounded and investigated the vehicle, but when Officer Mark Hunt, the traffic investigator, returned to the Smitty’s Towing lot in Goleta to take additional pictures, the minivan was missing.
According to Hunt, about two months after the collision, the vehicle was sold to a company in Ventura, where it was destroyed. As a result of the incident, Smitty’s Towing was suspended from police department work for one year.
“It’s unfortunate it got destroyed, but that’s what happens,” Hunt has told Noozhawk. “Mistakes happen, and that’s what it was.”
Smitty’s Towing referred Noozhawk to attorney Cristi Michelon, who could not be reached for comment. Court documents show that Smitty’s Towing has not yet responded to the cross-complaints.
Flores’ family has sued Fourmy and his parents, Patrick Fourmy and Susan Granziera, who have recently filed cross-complaints against Smitty’s Towing, alleging that the company should pay if any judgment or settlement is issued against them in the civil case.
Fourmy, who was 17 at the time of the collision, is facing vehicular manslaughter charges in juvenile court in addition to the civil suit filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court by Jeffrey Young on behalf of Flores’ family. Fourmy has contested the charges, and his trial is scheduled to begin June 27.
The lawsuit alleges that Fourmy was negligent and that his parents were negligent for entrusting an “unfit driver” with a motor vehicle in “defective condition.”
In the recently filed cross-complaints, the Fourmys allege that Smitty’s Towing breached its contract with the city of Santa Barbara because it was “not to sell, dispose of, discard, destroy, release or otherwise part with the possession, control or custody of the Toyota Previa until or unless instructed by the city of Santa Barbara.”
Since the van was destroyed, Fourmy claims he was deprived of his ability to establish an element of his defense. In court documents, he argues that the “defective mechanical condition,” including steering and braking systems, existed at the time of the incident and “caused or contributed to the occurrence of the incident.”
Fourmy’s parents claim the opposite: The vehicle, which was registered in Patrick Fourmy’s name, was in working condition.
The parents’ cross-complaint against Smitty’s Towing alleges that, without the van, the couple can’t defend their position that “no defective condition in any mechanical system of the Toyota Previa existed and that no mechanical condition of the Toyota Previa caused or contributed to the occurrence of the accident.”
The Santa Barbara Police Department’s traffic investigation team did conduct a mechanical inspection of the van, including braking, steering and throttle issues, Hunt has said. The collision reconstruction team worked to determine the speed of the vehicle and other details of the crash, which was helped by security camera footage from Bank of America, 1096 Coast Village Road, into whose building the van crashed into after striking Flores and hurling her into Butterfly Lane.
A case management hearing in the civil case was held Wednesday in Superior Court Judge James Brown’s courtroom, and the case was continued until Aug. 17.