On June 15, 2007, Gustavo Torres was driving under the influence when he ran a stop sign and crashed into a Honda Civic in which two sisters, Marta Perez, 16, and Rosie Landeros, 25, were out for the evening. Although the sister recently received a record, multi-million dollar, verdict in their lawsuit against Torres, the lives of these two Bakersfield, CA sisters have changed forever. Toxicology reports taken at the time of the accident indicated that Torres had a blood alcohol level of .16, twice the legal limit in California. While he first told authorities that he had two, then four beers, a .16 level is the equivalent of 8-12 beers.
Torres, employed by Palla Rosa Farms at the time, was returning the truck he was driving to his employer. He walked away from the accident with no serious injuries. Unfortunately, this was not the case for the two sisters. They were rushed to the hospital; both suffered from traumatic brain injuries. While Perez recovered enough to return to her job at a rehabilitation center, her younger sister was not as fortunate. Young Landeros was in a coma for six weeks and suffered severe brain damage; she has significant memory loss and no control over her emotions or judgment. She is confined to a walker, her left leg has virtually no strength; her left arm is still bent from the impact. She will need constant round-the-clock care the rest of her life. A teenager’s dream of becoming a nurse is shattered. “You can’t put a price on what happened,” said now 28-year-old Marta Perez. “Money is not going to change life back to the way it was before.”
Tragedies like these are so avoidable, so senseless and unnecessary. When will they stop? Drinking alcoholic beverages is a choice; you are entitled to it. What you are not entitled to do is to endanger others (and yourself) by combining excessive alcohol consumption with driving. It is a deadly combination; if you choose to drink, stay off the road!
Life is full of choices; the secret to a good life lies in making good choices. A bad choice, in a single moment, can have a disasterous impact on your life and the lives of others. That is certainly the case here. While her extraordinary legal recovery will assist Landeros in providing for her future care and living needs, it will never return her to the life she was enjoying; it will never permit her to experience her dream of becoming a nurse. And, if you are one of the “Torres’” of the world, what does your future look like? You are facing prison time, and, worse, you must live the rest of your life knowing that you have destroyed the quality of life and the dreams of others.
This lawsuit took almost three years to resolve. Both victims suffered substantially, physically and financially. It is unknown whether these unfortunate ladies availed themselves of lawsuit funding services; this is a valuable service that provides financial assistance to families, struggling to make ends meet due to injuries or deaths caused by drunk drivers and other negligent parties. Until victims receive compensation as the outcome of their lawsuit, lawsuit funding may be the only means of support available to them. A desperate plaintiff is not a positive influence on settlement negotiations. Strategic lawsuit funding may assist in preventing you from settling your case too early, for too little, something to consider if you find yourself the victim of someone else’s poor choice.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.