A public safety officer at the University of Southern California (USC) has been charged with vehicular manslaughter in connection with a fatal car accident on the college campus last year. Additionally, the parents of the car crash victim have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the other motorist and against the school.
The auto accident occurred around 6:30 a.m. on December 3, 2015 at the entrance to the USC campus. Kelsey Dresser was driving a 1996 Chrysler LeBaron and pulling into the South Los Angeles campus of USC when Miguel Guerra, a USC public safety officer who was on duty at the time, crashed into her vehicle. Guerra was traveling eastbound on Jefferson Boulevard in response to a report of a suspicious person at a campus parking garage. The force of impact caused Dresser’s car to move approximately 40 feet across the roadway even after the collision.
It was later determined by law enforcement that Guerra was traveling well above the speed limit when he collided with Dresser’s red convertible. According to officials, Guerra’s patrol vehicle had a crash data storage system, also known as a “black box,” indicating that the safety officer was speeding at 69 mph just prior to the fatal car accident. (The posted speed limit on that part of the roadway was 25 mph.) Moreover, the black box data reportedly indicated that the gas pedal in Guerra’s vehicle was pressed to the floor just before the crash.
Dresser sustained catastrophic injuries in the accident and was listed in critical condition on the night of the accident. Tragically, she passed away just one day later.
Dresser was just 23 years old when she died as a result of her accident-related injuries. She had enrolled in graduate school at USC, with her goal being to earn a grad degree and go on to become a mental health counselor.
Prosecutors in Los Angeles ultimately decided to criminally charge Guerra. The 37-year-old public safety officer has been charged with vehicular manslaughter because authorities allege that he was negligently speeding when he caused the fatal auto accident.
Although a criminal trial would have significant consequences for Guerra, the outcome of the criminal case won’t necessarily affect the wrongful death claim that was recently filed against both Guerra and USC. The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Dresser’s parents, who have alleged that USC is legally responsible for the negligent actions of its employee. Under the legal theory of respondeat superior, an employer may be liable for the actions of an employee who is acting within the scope and course of employment. The wrongful death suit filed by Dresser’s parents goes a step further, alleging that USC also failed to adequately train Guerra for his role as a public safety officer.
To learn more, view the Los Angeles Times article, “A Car Crash at USC Left a Student Dead and a Campus Officer Charged with Manslaughter.”
If you lost a loved one in an auto accident on a California road, a qualified personal injury and wrongful death lawyer can help you. At The Paris Firm, we can help. Contact The Paris Firm now to schedule a free initial consultation.