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Wrongful Death Suit Filed In Fatal CHP Pursuit

A wrongful death suit was filed Monday by four children of one of two people killed when a driver being pursued by the CHP came down a freeway offramp, ran a red light and crashed her car into a crowd at a taco truck in Boyle Heights last year.

Rachel Fernandez filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of herself and her three brothers – Jeremy, 15, and Donovan, 13, and Ryan, 11 – against the state as well as Elba Jimenez, the 38-year-old Upland resident being chased, and the owners of Danny’s Taco Truck. All of the plaintiffs were the children of 38-year-old Claudia Fernandez.

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

A CHP spokesperson did not immediately return a call for comment. The agency previously stated that one of its officers began pursuing Jimenez in the belief she was intoxicated about 1:20 p.m. last June 16 on the eastbound Santa Monica (10) Freeway near the Convention Center.

The officer followed the 2005 Toyota Camry – being driven at speeds up to 100 mph – onto the northbound Golden State (5) Freeway, where the officer tried to make a stop, the CHP stated. The driver refused to pull over and sped off the freeway at the Cesar Chavez Avenue offramp, according to the CHP.

“The driver exited the freeway at Cesar Chavez Avenue and blew the red light at the intersection,” CHP Officer Patrick Kimball said last year. “She drove into a parking lot, where a food vending truck was set up, and crashed into the truck, striking three people outside the truck.”

Fernandez and Marlene Alatorre, 19, died of their injuries. Jimenez was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries.

“Throughout the entire chase, the public was in danger of death or serious injury from the ongoing chase, yet the pursuit continued,” the lawsuit states.

“Thus, some automobile collision resulting in death or serious injury to a member of the general public due to the reckless nature of the CHP pursuit was eminently foreseeable.”

According to the complaint, the CHP was “required to have a policy in effect that controlled the circumstances under which a vehicle pursuit by one of its officers was authorized. The CHP breached this duty by failing to adopt a pursuit policy.”

The suit further alleges the taco truck owners were obligated to sell their food from a safe location where patrons waiting for their orders would not be hit by a vehicle. It was foreseeable that a car leaving the freeway at high speed could lose control and crash into customers like Fernandez, the suit states.

Jimenez is charged with two counts of murder and one felony count each of evading an officer, DUI causing injury and driving with a .08 percent or higher blood-alcohol level causing injury.