THE BAJA POST
Accident lawyers from the Baum Hedlund law firm filed a lawsuit today accusing the State of California of negligence and creating a dangerous condition that led to a fatal crash on U.S. Highway 101 near Redcrest.
Lead attorney Timothy A. Loranger filed the complaint in California Superior Court for the County of Humboldt on behalf of plaintiff Rachelle Sepulveda, whose father, Ruben Anthony Sepulveda, sustained fatal injuries in the 2021 crash on Highway 101.
On May 10, 2021, Ruben Sepulveda was driving on U.S. 101 when a Douglas fir tree located within the Humboldt Redwood State Park fell across the full width of the highway. Multiple vehicles, including Mr. Sepulveda’s, collided with the tree. Mr. Sepulveda sustained numerous severe injuries, including laceration of his spleen, acute kidney injury, multiple rib fractures, and left humeral neck fracture.
As a result of the trauma and multiple orthopedic surgeries, Mr. Sepulveda suffered a heart attack and a stroke and ultimately fell into a persistent vegetative state. Mr. Sepulveda died from his injuries weeks after the crash.
The lawsuit accuses the State of California—specifically the Department of Parks and Recreation and CALTRANS—of negligently creating a dangerous condition and failing to protect the motoring public from a tree that was “decayed and diseased.” Per the complaint, the State had the power to “prevent, remedy, or guard” against the foreseeable hazard posed by the tree and warn drivers of the substantial risk of injury but failed to do so.
“The State was on notice of the danger posed by diseased and decaying trees and should have taken protective measures to prevent the tree from falling and warn motorists of the potential for danger in the area,” says Timothy A. Loranger, the Sepulveda family’s attorney. “We do not believe this failure was the result of budget cuts or lack of resources; this was negligence, and it caused unspeakable harm to our client and others involved in what appears to be a preventable tragedy.”
Sepulveda v. State of California (Case No. CV2200080) includes a claim for pre-death pain and suffering. S.B. 447, signed into law last October, provides a decedent’s next of kin the ability to pursue non-economic damages for a decedent’s pain, suffering, and disfigurement before death.