From: Contra Costa Times
The widow of an Oakland Police officer killed in a traffic accident two years ago has filed a wrongful death suit against a truck driver who was cleared of criminal charges in the case.
Michele Seuis alleges that her husband, William Seuis, was killed as a result of negligence on the part of Carlos Mares and his trucking company, Mares Trucking. “We will, without a doubt, be able to prove Mr. Mares was responsible for the death of Officer Seuis,” said attorney Harry Stern, who represents Michele Seuis.
Neither Mares nor an attorney representing him could be reached for comment Friday.
According to court documents, Officer William Seuis was in uniform and driving his police motorcycle home to Pleasanton in heavy traffic on Interstate 238 near Castro Valley shortly after 2 p.m. on July 22, 2004, when he attempted to pass between Mares’ big rig and another vehicle. At least two witnesses said there did not appear to be enough room for his Harley Davidson to squeeze by Mares’ truck and a sedan in the neighboring lane. One witness said Seuis’ right shoulder touched the rig, and the officer got “sucked under” the rear tires. Traffic was moving between 5 and 15 mph, according to accounts.
Officer Seuis, a 16-year veteran of the force, was a popular officer and an experienced motorcyclist. He was a member of the department’s drill team, which showcases precise maneuvers.
Passing between two vehicles on a motorcycle, or “splitting lanes,” is legal in California as long as it is done “in a safe and prudent manner,” according to California Highway Patrol guidelines. It is not legal in any other state, although lawmakers in Washington and Texas have drafted bills that would allow the practice in congested traffic.
After the accident, Mares called 911 to report an officer had been struck. He did not stop at the scene, and gave conflicting statements whether his truck or a dirt hauler was involved. Mares was pulled over and arrested about 14 miles away on Interstate 580 in Pleasanton. He was charged with leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death, a felony.
Prosecutors dropped the charges because of insufficient evidence.
But Stern said he is confident that he will win a civil case against Mares. “In the criminal realm, there’s a presumption of innocence, and a need for the highest degree of proof. All we have to do is successfully show it’s more than 50 percent likely that this character killed Officer Seuis.”
The civil suit contends that Mares and his trucking company “negligently entrusted, managed, maintained, drove and operated the tractor and trailer, causing the collision and subsequent harm and damages” to the officer. Stern said that, since the initial investigation, they have done further studies that will prove Mares was responsible.
The suit seeks unspecified damages related to the loss of a loved one, punitive damages, legal costs and funeral expenses. “We’re still assessing the damages,” Stern said. “It’s really an immeasurable loss. He was a husband, a father, the bread-winner for the family.”
Stern is an attorney with Rains, Lucia and Wilkinson LLP, a Pleasant Hill-based firm that specializes in legal services for police officers and their families.
Mares has not filed a response with Alameda County Superior Court, and could not be reached for comment. Stern said prosecutors also were having a hard time finding Mares, and have not served him with a summons. “But we will find him, and hold him accountable for what he has done,” Stern said.