Exactly one year after a car struck Revelle sophomore Mariana Flores as she entered Interstate-5 during the election night protests, Flores’ attorney filed a personal injury and property damage lawsuit against UC San Diego and several other entities. According to the complaint submitted to the San Diego Superior Court last Wednesday, Flores suffered wage loss, loss of earning capacity, hospital and medical expenses, general damage, property damage, and loss of personal property as a result of the incident.
The protests during which Flores was injured began shortly after Donald Trump was announced the projected winner of the 2016 election. Students living in all six colleges gathered on Library Walk and spread throughout campus, chanting criticisms of the president-elect as they moved. The protest then spilled off-campus near the freeway, where demonstrators walked onto the interstate.
As an emergency vehicle was attempting to shut down Interstate-5 by driving in an “S” formation across the southbound lanes, the driver hit Flores, crushing her pelvis, fracturing her leg, and causing other serious injuries.
Flores’ attorney Gene Sullivan informed the UCSD Guardian that due to the nature of her injuries, Flores’ medical bills over the course of her life will be in the millions of dollars, so he and his client hope that the university will offer assistance in covering the costs.
The lawsuit, which also names the UC Board of Regents, the City and County of San Diego, the State of California, and the driver of the vehicle as defendants, states that the protest was organized by the university and that UCSD is responsible for failing to end the demonstration.
“Plaintiff was participating in a citizen protest that had been organized by the University of California, San Diego and/or the University of California Regents,” the complaint reads. “The protest continued all over campus for hours and was never stopped, controlled, or refrained by the County of San Diego, City of San Diego, State of California, University of California Regents or the University of California, San Diego.”
Sullivan explained that there are a number of people culpable for the accident, including Flores herself, but because the university is partially responsible, it is also partially responsible for the harms and damages. Under the doctrine of tort law known as “comparative responsibility,” the jury will determine what percentages of responsibility the university and other defendants comprise for the incident and assign damages accordingly.
Elaborating on the notion that the university “organized” the protest, Sullivan told the Guardian that the university “planned, organized” and knew the protest was happening for hours but did nothing to stop it. According to Sullivan, not doing anything and failing to act is legally the same thing as supporting the protest.
Sullivan further alleged that the protest was encouraged by people in positions of authority at the university, and that “if anyone that is in authority with the university – a [Residential Advisor] – says ‘let’s go,’ the university would be responsible.”
The complaint additionally claims that UCSD is liable for Flores’ injuries because it allowed the protesters to enter the freeway and failed to warn Flores that there was no one providing security for the demonstrators along the freeway even though campus police officers were present during the protests on campus and shut down the surrounding streets.
“It’s a long-established rule that a university or any public entity has a duty to protect their students and have them be safe,” Sullivan said.
UCSD has not yet informed Sullivan of its position on the lawsuit.
The UCSD Guardian contacted UCSD representatives for comments, but they did not respond. Anyone seeking information on the lawsuit is welcome to contact Sullivan at (310) 376-0288.
Photo by Patrick Lazo