Criminal case hearing next
As previously reported, the Riverside County District Attorney has filed three felony counts against Pine Cove resident Pamela Allen, 66, for a March 2017 collision with Julia Romero, 18, of Idyllwild.
In parallel with the criminal suit, Romero, through attorney Matthew Poelstra, has filed a civil suit seeking to recover medical costs and other damages as a result of the collision.
In the criminal suit, Allen’s attorney Donald Bartell, has filed a motion to dismiss the first two felony charges against Allen. These relate to driving under the influence and causing great bodily injury. A hearing on this motion is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 20.
In his motion, Bartell writes, “The evidence presented at the preliminary hearing was insufficient to show that the defendant did any act forbidden by law … also no competent admissible evidence to show that the defendant had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more, by weight of alcohol in her blood while driving.”
In the civil action, which was filed in May 2018, Poelstra’s complaint alleged Allen was negligent that night, but further, that she was intoxicated and drove anyway.
“Defendant was consciously aware that she was consuming too much alcohol … Defendant consumed her last drink before beginning to drive, she consciously knew that she was unfit to operate a motor vehicle,” he wrote. He argues that this “constituted malice and a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others” and is considered malicious behavior in California that is subject to punitive damages beyond the actual medical costs and injuries.
Allen’s defense argued to dismiss these claims as “… grossly negligent or even reckless conduct is insufficient to support punitive damages unless the element of deliberate failure to avoid risk can be shown,” he argued.
The defense did not argue for dismissal of the entire action, but stated that claims for punitive damages were unproven.
On Oct. 30, Judge Randall Stamen, overseeing the civil case, ruled in favor of Romero’s attorney and this suit will continue. Poelstra expects it to continue to trail the criminal trial as more discovery will be necessary before any further courtroom action.
These suits arise out of a traffic collision on Highway 243 March 31, 2017, where the officer on the scene reported that Allen “veered into the oncoming southbound traffic lane, crossing over sold double yellow lines and directly into the path of Romero, who was driving south.”
This summer, in the criminal case, Allen’s attorney brought an expert witness, who argued that his evaluation of the damaged vehicles and tread marks on the roads leads him to believe the opposite happened. He told the court that Romero crossed into the northbound lanes. Further, he asserted that the blood-alcohol tests were not given properly; consequently, these data should not be admissible.
Judge Randall D. White has not ruled on this motion in the criminal case.