Parents of teen killed in crash take legal action

Victim's parents sue Caltrans

SAN DIEGO - The family of one of two teenagers killed in a crash on the state Route 52 earlier this year has filed a claim against Caltrans, saying the state agency did not do enough to make the freeway safe.

On April 4, Sixteen-year-old Jayli Campbell and 18-year old Anthony Foreman were passengers in a Volkswagen Passat that raced a Volvo sedan at speeds of more than 100 mph, according to authorities. The driver of the Passat, 16-year old Zach Bishop, lost control of the car and struck the concrete center-divider, sending the car flipping end-over-end seven times.

Michael Johnson, the Volvo's 19-year-old driver, was sentenced to three years probation -- including a year in jail -- for racing. Bishop was committed to the Juvenile Detention Center for one year.

"I'm sure they regret what they did," said Jayli's mother, Theresa, who told 10News reporter Allison Ash she's not sure she can ever forgive the teens or their parents for giving them the keys to their cars.

Theresa Campbell claims both teen drivers have been involved in high-risk driving and accidents. She said their parents are responsible.

"You give your child a car and how many chances do you get?" she asked. "You total one car and OK, here's another car, son."

The Campbells will file wrongful death civil lawsuits next week against both teen drivers and their parents. They also plan to take on Caltrans for what they call the unsafe conditions on the stretch of blacktop that runs through Kearny Mesa.

For years, drivers have complained that the rolling and dipping asphalt are hazardous and a distraction, especially for those unfamiliar with the roadway.

"It's a bad place, especially for young kids," said Bob Campbell, Jayli's father. "They really don't know that area. They think it's fun to drive fast."

Bob Campbell said he believes his son might still be alive if there weren't such dangerous conditions on the SR-52.

The couple's attorney said the dips and rises on SR-52 make it unpredictable and a risk to the public.

"They have to know that this roadway is going to be used at a speed greater than 65 [mph]," explained attorney Fred Cohen, who filed the claim against Caltrans. "They also have to anticipate the wrongful conduct of people driving fast."

"There is no question that the driving and the speed of these young drivers constituted a contributing factor and negligence in this incident," Cohen added.

The Campbells may have difficulty defending their claim. The family of Alexandria Drake lost its lawsuit against Caltrans, after claiming state Route 67 near Ramona was dangerously flawed. The Drakes not only lost their case, they were ordered to pay the state's legal costs.

The Campbells said their upcoming legal battles are not about money. They want to make sure those who are responsible for their son's death are held accountable and they want to make sure no other family is forced to endure the same kind of loss they now live with.

"You can't replace my son with a dollar," said Theresa Campbell.
 

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