The four families whose children were killed on Sabado Tarde Road last year filed wrongful death and personal injury suits against David Attias and his parents, Daniel and Diane, in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Feb. 6.
Arthur and Sharon Levy, Anthony and Patricia Bourdakis, Sally Jo Divis, and Peter Israel and Abby Pollack are named on civil filings for each of their children.
Albert Levy, who was severely injured in the same incident, also filed a personal injury civil suit against the Attias family.
The suits claim Daniel and Diane Attias acted negligently and recklessly in entrusting David to operate the 1991 Saab that killed Nicholas Bourdakis, Christopher Divis, Elie Israel and Ruth Levy, and injured Albert Levy. The victims were walking on the 6500 block of Sabado Tarde Road on Feb. 23, 2001, when the car struck them at approximately 60 miles per hour. David Attias, who has been in Santa Barbara County Jail since the incident, faces 13 felony charges, including four counts of murder. His trial is set to begin April 5.
“Defendants Daniel Attias and Diane Attias acted negligently, carelessly, recklessly and in conscious disregard of the safety of others in permitting and entrusting their son, defendant David Attias, to operate their 1991 Saab 9000 motor vehicle when they knew or should have known that David Attias had a long history of violence, used marijuana and other illegal drugs, had been in a previous collision while driving said car, had received a previous citation for driving said car at an unsafe speed … and was a negligent, incompetent or reckless driver,” the suit states.
Under the state law, wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits allow the court to hold a person liable for damages if the individual has knowingly entrusted someone with a vehicle that is used to injure someone else.
“For the parents, we filed negligent and or reckless driving because of their entrustment of a 1991 Saab … because they knew that David was a danger to himself and others by driving that car … and would use it as a weapon,” Levy family attorney Ronald Rouda said. “Diane and Daniel Attias were the owners of the vehicle and they allowed him to use it.”
The civil code does not specify payment in damages for such a case. The court would assess that amount, based on evidence, in the event of a guilty verdict.
“[Compensation is measured by] the loss of reasonably expected love, social companionship, guidance, moral support and financial support that the decedent would have given to the parents,” he said. “Shakespeare once said, ‘The greatest tragedy a human being can suffer is to follow their child in the funeral procession.’ Unfortunately, this case has to be translated in monetary damages.”
Rouda said while there is no specific time frame for the proceedings, he expects an outcome in no less than a year. He also said the victims’ families will probably wait to pursue the civil case until the criminal trial is complete, so they can use evidence and testimony by witnesses.
The findings in the criminal case have the potential to affect the civil case against David Attias, but not the case against his parents, Rouda said
“Let’s say they found David guilty of one charge that would probably be determinate in the civil action against David but not against his parents,” he said. “We have to establish the civil liability of his parents for negligent entrustment of the vehicle independent of the outcome of the criminal case.”