A jury in a Santa Ana courtroom will begin to hear opening statements soon from both attorneys in a case that threatens to become a highly emotional one – involving negligence of the city on the one hand, and parental supervision, or the lack thereof, on the other.
Attorneys for both sides of a motorcycle accident case have begun to present opening arguments before prospective jurors in the case involving two teenage San Juan Capistrano boys. In March 30, 2005, the two teenagers, Trenton Merrill, then a 14-year-old, and Scott Agostini, then 13 years of age were riding a dirt bike. Merrill was the passenger. The pair crossed San Juan Capistrano Creek Road, and crashed into a BMW. Both suffered injuries in the motorcycle accident, but it was Merrill who took the brunt of the impact. He spent several weeks in the hospital undergoing a number of surgeries before his leg had to be amputated. Agostini was discharged a week after the accident with no permanent damage. The driver of the BMW, Emily Pastore, was not injured in the accident.
In the days after the motorcycle accident, Merrill and his family sued the city, as well as a city landscaping contractor. The city on its part, sued both Agostini and Pastore, but last week dropped Pastore from the suit.
In opening remarks, the attorney for the city based his arguments on the young boys and their temperament. According to him, the boys had been encouraged to take up the sport of motocross racing by their parents, and were prone to using the neighborhood as their own private motocross-racing track. He rejected outright the notion that these boys were naïve or innocent victims in this tragedy, and said that they were already semi-pro motocross racers by the time of the motorcycle accident. And this when the boys were just 13 and 14 years old!
In his opening remarks, the attorney for the Merrills, argued that the boys had absolutely no time to see Pastore’s BMW as they cut across the intersection because an overgrowth of heavy vegetation created a blind intersection, in the center of the median. Merrill, he contends, had been forced to lose his leg and let go of his dreams, because of the negligence of the San Juan Capistrano city that failed to make the intersection safe to use for riders. There was no record of any maintenance work done at the site of the accident by the landscape contractor. There were no warning signs that could have warned the boys. There was nothing but green brush that blocked the boy’s view, and led to the motorcycle accident.
The case has taken on emotional tones, especially with those who believe that the boys’ parents were being irresponsible in letting them ride dirt bikes in the streets. The attorney for the city actually used the words, “self centered”, and “disobedient.” We’re still a while away from hearing all the facts in this case, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that the boys were in the habit of using the streets as a racing track, as the city’s attorney has claimed. Neighbors of the Agostinis say that most of the boys’ riding was done at the racing track that his parents had built for him in the yard.
It’s ridiculous to pile all the blame on the parents, when the city has failed to keep the streets safe for people to use. It looks as if the city is trying to blame others without acknowledging that it too had a part to play in this tragedy. True, the boys may not have had a place on the roads, but then, that huge brush didn’t have a place on the center median that day either.