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Family of Victim in Hit-and-Run Near Showgrounds Sues City, County of Santa Barbara

The state is also named in the complaint, which alleges that the area of the fatal crash was public property in dangerous condition

The family of a Santa Barbara woman killed in a hit-and-run last year has filed a lawsuit against three government agencies, maintaining that the area where she was killed was public property in dangerous condition.

Alan Garcia, 38, and girlfriend Elizabeth Contreras, 36, were killed in January 2010 when a driver hit the couple as they were crossing the street at Los Positas and Tallent roads.

Court records state the pair had recently been ejected from the Earl Warren Showgrounds during a California Fight Syndicate match before they were killed.

The driver, Jon Steffan Peters, pleaded guilty to charges of felony hit-and-run and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The family’s lawsuit was filed in December 2010 by the estate of Elizabeth Contreras and her husband, Joseph, against the city and county of Santa Barbara, as well as the state of California, which operates the Earl Warren Showgrounds.

The complaint says that the public property was in dangerous condition when Contreras and Garcia were killed and requests a jury trial. Contreras’ complaint alleges that the agencies failed to provide a marked crosswalk, warning signs, adequate lighting, traffic control devices or adequate event parking.

To prove that a public agency is liable, the plaintiffs must plead several conditions, including that there was a dangerous condition on the property at the time and that it was the cause of the injury.

The accused agencies have filed a demurrer that says Contreras’ complaint fails to state specifics that would establish liability for a public agency.

“While this accident may have been tragic, plaintiffs cannot succeed on the theory of liability plead against the State of California,” one response said.

Also listed on the lawsuit is Nathan Bindschalder, whom the family’s complaint says was driving a vehicle that day and is “negligent for waiving decedent Elizabeth Contreras to cross Las Positas Road, where she was hit and killed, when there was an oncoming car approaching from the opposite direction at a high rate of speed.”

Bindschalder filed a cross-complaint in February against the city, county and state as well, but also named Peters on the lawsuit.

A judge issued a tentative ruling on the demurrer earlier this week, validating the concerns of the state and the county of Santa Barbara. Contreras’ attorneys have until May 12 to file an amended complaint.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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