A Paso Robles jury recently found a stretch of Highway 1 south of Hearst Castle to be dangerous and in need of repair to prevent potential collisions. The jurors finding came after a month-long trial involving a head-on collision on the highway in 2011.
Jeffrey LaChance was traveling northbound on a two-lane portion of Highway 1 between San Simeon and Hearst Castle. He attempted to pass a tourist bus in a legal passing area when he crashed into a Toyota Camry being driven by Peter Fuller. Mr. Fuller’s wife, Joan, was killed upon impact. As a result of the incident, Mr. Fuller requires 24-hour care due to severe and permanent brain injuries.
Mr. Fuller filed a lawsuit that alleged that the California Department of Transportation was negligent in its maintenance of the highway and that stretch was a “grossly inappropriate” area for a passing zone. The passing zone includes a curve with limited visibility.
Jurors agreed with the plaintiff that the highway was “in a dangerous condition” at the time of the incident. However, they did not find the California Department of Transportation liable for the damages because they did not find there was “a reasonable, foreseeable risk of injury,” according to The Tribune. Because of this finding, the California Department of Transportation is not obligated to alter the highway. The jurors are, however, writing a letter to urge the department to repaint the portion of the highway to prevent passing.
Mr. LaChance was familiar with that stretch of Highway 1, and had driven on it for nearly 20 years. The California Highway Patrol did not find that alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash. The lawsuit claimed that there were no mechanical defects in either vehicle.
The highway patrol found that Mr. LaChance accelerated to about 79 miles per hour to pass the bus. The Fullers were driving at or slightly below the 55 miles per hour speed limit. Mr. Fuller did not hit his brake until less than two seconds before impact.
Mr. LaChance pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless driving and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter with ordinary negligence in 2012.