Relatives of three people killed in a fiery South Los Angeles crash in 2018 are suing Fiat Chrysler US LLC and a convicted drunk driver accused of triggering the collision, alleging that a defect in the victims' van caused it to burst into flames and trap the decedents.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit was brought Friday by Elizabeth Flores and her 11-year-old son, who survived with major injuries. The plaintiffs allege negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress and product liability. They seek unspecified damages.
A Chrysler Fiat representative issued the following statement Tuesday:
"FCA extends its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of those affected by this tragic accident,'' the statement read. "We have not been served with this lawsuit and cannot comment on what it alleges at this time. The 1994 Dodge Caravan reportedly involved in this incident meets or exceeds all applicable federal safety standards and has an excellent safety record.''
The other driver, Jose Manuel Garcia, 32, of Los Angeles has pleaded not guilty to three felony counts each of murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, along with one felony count each of driving under the influence of alcohol within 10 years of another DUI offense and driving with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content causing injury within 10 years of another DUI. The criminal complaint alleges that Garcia has a 2011 conviction for DUI.
Garcia allegedly ran a red signal about 7:30 p.m. April 28, 2018, at South Hoover and West 76th streets and struck a 1994 Dodge minivan carrying a family of five. The minivan burst into flames, and Juan Reynoso, 34, and two of his children, 5-month-old Sebastian and 6-year-old Emma, died at the scene.
Flores and Reynoso were the parents of the two children who died as well as the
one who survived.
According to the suit, Reynoso was driving the van, which was headed west on 76th Street and approaching Hoover Street at the same time Garcia was driving north on Hoover in a 2008 Nissan X-Terra. Garcia drove through the intersection despite a red signal and collided with the van, the suit states.
"During the collision and ... due to defects in the fuel system, the (van) burst into violent flames with (Reynoso, Sebastian and Emma) trapped inside,'' the suit states.
Reynoso, Emma and Sebastian died inside the van, the suit states.