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Lawyer: Blame impaired driver, not road, for death of young bicy

Arizona Daily Star: Lawyer: Blame impaired driver, not road, for death of young bicyclist

By Kim Smith Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 6:25 pm

An impaired driver and the restaurant where she was served 10 beers in five hours - not a road defect - are to blame for a crash that killed a teen bicyclist, an attorney representing the city told jurors Tuesday.

Davis was one of three attorneys who gave openings statements in a wrongful death trial in Pima County Superior Court.

Jose Rincon Sr. and Adriana Rincon filed a lawsuit against the City of Tucson, Rumsey and Chuy’s restaurant after their son, Jose Rincon Jr., died on Jan. 12, 2008.

The boy, 14, was riding his bike east on East Broadway near Vozack Lane on the eastside about 7:20 p.m. when Rumsey struck him and a friend, who survived the crash.

The evidence showed Rumsey had a blood-alcohol level of 0.249 two hours after the crash. The legal limit in Arizona is 0.08.

A jury convicted Rumsey of manslaughter and she is serving 14 years in prison.

On Tuesday, the Rincons’ attorney, Ronald Mercaldo, told jurors Chuy’s and Rumsey were to blame for the crash, but he also said the city was at fault.

During a road improvement project, a city engineer abandoned plans to add five feet of asphalt to the roadway, creating a large off-set in the lanes, Mercaldo said. As a result, Rumsey ended up in the bike lane when her lane ended and she tried to merge.

"Had this road been five feet wider like it should have been we wouldn’t be here today, this accident would never have happened," Mercaldo said.

Rumsey’s attorney, Stefano Corradini, agreed his client and Chuy’s were largely responsible for the crash, but he, too, blamed the city.

Showing a picture of the road, Corradini said, "Common sense tells you that’s a bad intersection."

Davis, who is defending the city, told jurors Rumsey had driven that road many times, she knew the lanes merged and there were plenty of signs.

Rumsey was so drunk she says she only heard a little thump when she hit the boys and yet Jose Jr. landed on her hood and cracked her windshield, Davis said.

Roads can’t be designed to be drunk driver-proof, Davis said.

The Rincons settled their lawsuit with Chuy’s for a confidential sum.

Judge Kenneth Lee is presiding over the trial.