A wrongful death lawsuit charging the city and the county with negligence in the fatal traffic accident that killed Matilde Garnica during a fireworks show at the Westfield Valencia Town Center on July 4, 2010 was filed this morning in Chatsworth Superior Court.
Garnica was killed when a vehicle driven by Melissa Brown ran a red light at Valencia Boulevard and the mall entrance and hit a Dodge Durango, spinning out of control into a crowd of spectators sitting along the curb in front of Islands restaurant. The Newhall mother of three died at the scene; her son and six other people were injured.
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Attorney Jeffrey Hacker, who represents Garnica’s family, her relatives and spectators who “witnessed this horrific event,” said that the suit also alleges negligence on the part of the pyrotechnics company that conducted the fireworks as well as various entities of the Westfield Corporation.
The lawsuit does not include Brown or the Durango driver, Philip Anderson, as Hacker said the case had been resolved with those parties.
Traffic investigators re-created the accident, interviewed witnesses and examined videotapes of the incident and determined that Brown was at fault. She was arrested and charged with one count of vehicular manslaughter, which is a felony, and one count of failure to stop at a red light. She posted bail and is scheduled to return to court June 28 to set the date for her preliminary hearing, according to District Attorney spokeswoman Jane Robison. If convicted, she faces up to six years in state prison.
Hacker said that the lawsuit seeks damages that include compensation for medical bills, any future medical costs, as well as pain and suffering on the part of the victims. He said that the R.Rex Parris Law Firm from the Antelope Valley is also involved in the filing.