The Canadian couple critically injured in a motorcycle collision last May has filed a civil lawsuit against the Montecito man who pleaded guilty to DUI charges in the crash.
The law firm was so struck by the Atwoods’ sad and empowering story that it will represent the married couple free of charge, according to attorney Gregory Rueb.
The suit was filed against Martin “Leo” Maguire, 52, who was sentenced last week to nine years in state prison — the maximum allowed — for the May 29, 2013, DUI collision.
The Atwoods were traveling on Old Coast Highway near the Montecito Country Club at about 5:20 p.m. that day when Maguire’s Toyota 4Runner SUV crossed over the center line and struck the couple head-on.
Jim Atwood, 64, and, Ellen, 59, both lost their left legs in the trauma that followed, and now wear prosthetic legs or use wheelchairs. They are still undergoing exhaustive rehabilitation near their home.
Maguire pleaded guilty last October to charges of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and special allegations of causing great bodily injury.
He will serve at least seven years in prison before he’s eligible for parole, and he must pay a to-be-determined amount of restitution.
“We don’t anticipate much coming from it,” Rueb said. “It’s more of making a point and holding him responsible civilly. There’s really no amount of compensation that will ever make up for what they’ve been through.”
The suit doesn’t include the amount of compensation the Atwoods are seeking, but Rueb guessed it could be millions for each victim.
Rueb said Maguire doesn’t have many assets, and his health insurance wouldn’t even make a dent in helping pay the more than $1 million in medical bills.
Rueb is also helping the Atwoods navigate through their own insurance policy to see what assistance Canadian health care can provide.
“They fortunately are well insured on their side of this,” he said. “Every step they take is a challenge, and every step they take carries a risk of harm to them.”
Rueb said a judge could stipulate an outcome, or the firm could take the case to court.
“The reality is that (Maguire) needs to know there’s a civil consequence to his behavior,” he said. “Whether we collect on that is a whole other story.”