Aftermath of the November 2009 wrong-way-driver accident that killed Marcos Arredondo

Courtesy Photo

Aftermath of the November 2009 wrong-way-driver accident that killed Marcos Arredondo

County Settles Lawsuit for $4.8 Million

Surviving Family Alleged Deputy Acted Negligently

Thursday, October 25, 2012
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The family of two people killed by a wrong-way driver on Highway 101 in 2009 settled last month with Santa Barbara County for $4.8 million, resolving a civil case in which they alleged a Sheriff’s Department deputy didn’t follow proper procedure in resolving the situation safely.

Marcos Arrendondo, 18 years old, was killed, along with one of his passengers, Macrina Ocampo, a grandmother and single mother of eight. Two children in the car sustained severe injuries, according to their attorney, Barry Cappello. Richard Rodriguez pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and, in 2010, was sentenced to 13 years in state prison.

The Tustin resident, now 22 years old, was drunk and high on cocaine when he starting driving north in southbound lanes after leaving an Isla Vista party. At the same time, two vehicles ​— ​one driven by Arrendono, the other by his father, Jose ​— ​were on the road, returning to Goleta from a wedding in Lompoc. Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Rogers had received a call of a wrong-way driver and slowly entered Highway 101 at Glen Annie Road.

Cappello alleged that Rogers failed to signal or put on his overhead flashing flights to indicate there was an emergency. Both Arredondos ​— ​Jose in front, Marcos behind ​— ​had to quickly change lanes to avoid hitting the merging Sheriff’s deputy, Cappello said, putting the vehicles directly in the path of Rodriguez’s vehicle. “After the Arredondo vehicles passed Rogers, he finally turned on his flashing lights and siren,” Cappello said.

“Jose assumed he was being pulled over. He moved over to lane two just as Rodriguez’s car zoomed by, barely missing him. Rodriguez then slammed head-on into the vehicle driven by Marcos.” Said Cappello’s partner, Leila Noël, “By his actions, Rogers turned a hazardous condition into a deadly one.”

Sheriff Bill Brown, however, took issue with Noël and Cappello’s characterization of the incident and said his deputy did not violate department policy, nor did the county admit wrongdoing or liability. “While Mr. Cappello blames this tragedy on the county and a Sheriff’s deputy, the real cause of this heartbreaking criminal event was Richard Rodriguez, whose reckless behavior in using illegal drugs, drinking alcohol to excess, and then driving the wrong way on the freeway is the real cause of this tragedy,” Brown said.

He said the reason the county and Sheriff’s Department were included in the suit is because the county has deep pockets, while Rodriguez had no assets. The settlement came after multiple confidential mediation sessions, according to County Counsel Dennis Marshall. He called the settlement “a sound business decision by the County to end the litigation.” The county was facing up to $15 million in potential damages.

Noël said their clients, who have almost no money, were “desperately in need of medical treatment long term,” and the settlement money will be placed in an annuity to help with medical bills over the years.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

13 years seem like enough for driving wrong way on freeway while drunk and high and coke? Oh, and killing two innocents?

spacey (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And $4.8M of taxpayers money down the toilet.

Botany (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2012 at 5:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Way to go county counsel. Let's send a $4.8 MILLION reason for everyone to sue a public agency for ANYTHING!!! Take it to trial and if you lose take it to appeal, but I know, that would be a lot of work and you get paid the same to just settle.

Lazy Idiots!!!

Validated (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2012 at 8:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Another example of our dysfunctional local gov in action.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 9:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The article seems to forget that the grandmother who died in the accident wasn't wearing her seat belt. Would seem to be a mitigating circumstance to me, however tragic the situation.

sbdude (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 9:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Actually the County's insurance pays the $4.8M. And I'm not sure why this is an example of "our dysfunctional local gov in action." The Board will typically try to settle to both reduce the risk of having to pay higher amounts if the case goes to trial (with a jury) and the costs to the County to defend the lawsuit.

discoboy (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 10:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So F#$%@ Sad. Only 13 yrs for Rodriguez? He gets out in no time... Meanwhile, his incredibly poor/stupid decision to drive all jacked up apparently has no fiscal repercussions for him. Why not register him and once he's out, he has to report in and any job he has, his wages are garnished and it goes to the families he's destroyed - for the rest of his life.

Not to sound callous, but even though it's insurance, it STILL costs us all... and I'm dumfounded how this got to $4.8m. Yes this was/is tragic, yes the families need help, but why is this the County's sole responsibility? Just because the deputy didn't turn on his overhead lights right away? Were his headlights off too? No? I think it's ludicrous to place 100% of the financial burden on someone (or entity) who clearly, was not the instigating and most important factor in this whole unfortunate mess: Rodriguez.

MotoBella (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 12:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Is anyone missing the fact that the woman killed was a single mother of eight? What are they going to do to provide? This isn't just for the deaths and long term care of all who were in the car but for a lifelong care for those orphans. If this didn't happen the state would still have to pick up the slack, and they should garnish this idiots wages once he gets back on the streets and making money.

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
October 29, 2012 at 10:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Good question why 100% of the financial burden is the County's to bear. No good answer except that that is how the system works. No sense trying to sue Rodriguez since he would never be able to pay any large sum, even if his wages were garnished.

discoboy (anonymous profile)
October 29, 2012 at 10:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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