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Orange County Wrongful Death Claim May be Trouble for City of Newport Beach

Posted by Timothy J. Ryan | Jul 16, 2014 | 0 Comments


The mother and father of two sets of teenagers have jointly filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a 17-year-old driver and the city of Newport Beach in Orange County, CA, all of which as a result of the death of five teenagers who died in a crash on a stretch of Jamboree Road last year.

The mother of one of the teenagers, Maria Balbuena, is named as one of the claimants. The other claimant is the father of two more teenagers. Five teenagers were in the car, which crashed on the way to the beach that evening. The driver was 17 year old Abdulrahman Alyahyan, who also died in the crash. The Orange County wrongful death lawsuit has been filed partly against the estate of Alyahyan's father, citing negligence on the part of the father. The two claimants allege that he should have supervised the driving of his son who drove recklessly and at high speeds, causing the crash.

Despite having assisted negligence victims in Orange County for several decades, situations in which a person's death could have easily been prevented affects us deeply. We can only imagine what the victims' family is experiencing. Our thoughts, prayers, and good wishes go out to everyone involved.

The other party that has been named in the lawsuit is the city of Newport Beach. The claimants allege that the stretch of road where the deadly crash took place was dangerous. They say that the median strip is badly designed and has no barrier to protect vehicles and their occupants if they inadvertently veer off the highway. The median strip on that section of Jamboree has trees along it and it was one of those trees that Alyahyan and his four passengers hit when he careered off the road that fateful Memorial Day last year.

What Happened?

The car was apparently being driven at high speeds toward the beach on the evening of Memorial Day when Alyahyan lost control and hit a pine tree on the median strip. The car then burst into flames and split into two halves. Three of the five teenagers were ejected from the vehicle.

Orange County officials claim that the street was “fine” and “there was nothing wrong with it” in the words of the Newport Beach City Attorney, Aaron Harp. He says that legal claims against the city had been already denied in December last year when the parents had acknowledged that it was Alyahyan's negligence that had caused the deaths of the five teens. According to the city, these legal claims have to be filed first before a lawsuit can be filed against the city for damages in a wrongful death.

There is no indication as yet of the amount of damages claimed in the lawsuit.

More Than a Fight for Money

Wrongful death claims in Orange County are not necessarily just about money although this might be the main consideration at first. They are primarily made by one or more surviving relatives who have suffered financial loss from the death of a family member and are meant to provide a source of money to compensate these relatives when a breadwinner dies. However, the claim can also involve an amount for the loss of companionship, which is more relevant in the case of these teenagers and their parents.

When wrongful death claims are successful, it can have other outcomes, too. The claims are made because of alleged negligence. The success of a claim is a public vindication that negligence occurred in the eyes of the law and serves as a warning that similar negligence in the future will not be tolerated. Of course, when youngsters drive recklessly the fact that a wrongful death claim has been made because of another teen's negligent driving probably means very little. In this case, though, the claim has been made against the father of the errant teen, citing that he was negligent in allowing his son to drive without supervision. If the claim succeeds, it will probably be recorded in the media and may serve as a warning to other parents not to allow their young teens to drive others around without being supervised.

Similarly, the claim against the city, if successful, would be a confirmation that the law regards that stretch of road to be potentially dangerous. In those circumstances, the whole community benefits to a certain extent because it is highly likely that the city would make modifications to the median to make it less dangerous. This is all rather hypothetical, but illustrates the point that one wrongful death claim can have beneficial effects on the safety of others in society, which go beyond the strict financial motives of the claim itself.

Benefits of a Wrongful Death Claim

As has been mentioned above, a successful Orange County wrongful death claim can not only compensate a family for the loss of its loved one or loved ones but the claim can have additional benefits. Cities all over the country have been sued for poor road design, and claimants have won when it has been proven that a road could have been designed more safely.

These cases are always quite complex and are not easy to win unless it can be proved that the city had known or should have known that a particular stretch of road was potentially dangerous and had done nothing about it. This would have been the case, for example, in the Newport Beach tragedy if that particular stretch of Jamboree had been the scene of several other accidents in which cars had hit one or other of the trees that have been panted there causing injuries.

It is not known in this particular case whether this is in fact something that has occurred in the past.

It stands to reason that if the city is successfully sued that it is unlikely to allow the road to continue to be potentially dangerous as the consequences of another fatal accident in the same area after having nothing to fix the problem could be extremely expensive for the city authorities.

This means that if this lawsuit is successful, which is by no means certain at this stage, it could indeed help to make Jamboree safer for other road users.

Where Can the Victim's Family Get Help?

This sort of claim is a difficult one to pursue. The claim is against two particular defendants and cites quite different causes for the death of the five teenagers. It will probably be quite difficult to prove that either the father of Abdulrahman Alyahyan was negligent in allowing his son to drive without supervision and even more difficult to prove negligence on part of Newport Beach.

In the case of poor design, it is very rare for the police to confirm that a stretch of road was dangerous, particularly if it has been like that for many years. It takes a personal injury lawyer with particular experience in road design to take on a case of this nature.

The conclusion that can be drawn from this particular Orange County accident and the wrongful death claims that have been filed is that if you are in similar circumstances and one of your family members has been seriously injured or killed as a result of negligence, you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible after the event. The sooner an Orange County lawyer can start investigating the circumstances surrounding the accident, collect witness statements and examine corroborating evidence the better, and you may be able to prevent future injuries and deaths by calling attention to the problem.

Those who believe their loved one was killed as a result of negligence in Southern California are encouraged to call us for a free consultation. Call 1-800-838-6644 to get help today.


About the Author

Timothy J. Ryan

Personal injury attorney Timothy J. Ryan has helped California injury victims recover more than $1 Billion since 1981. Tim is on the board of governors for the Consumer Attorneys of California and received the 2020 award "10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys" for client satisfaction.


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Timothy J. Ryan & Associates

Timothy J. Ryan & Associates has earned a national reputation for aggressive client advocacy and real results for grieving families. If you have questions about your loved one's death, you can obtain a free consultation from attorney Timothy J. Ryan. Call (714) 898-4444 to get help today.