The parents of a 12 year old San Jose, California child killed by the actions of a drunk driver have secured a one million dollar settlement against a close family friend trusted with the safety of the youth while on a summer fishing trip to Seward, Alaska, located 120 miles south of Anchorage.
The lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, Case 1-11-CV-202283, alleged that a trusted family friend, Randy Sozanski, knowingly allowed an acquaintance, Dan Armstrong, to drive the youth- Matt L., even though Sozanski knew Armstrong had been drinking heavily.
Armstrong's car ended up in the Resurrection River on the Kenai Peninsula near Seward, Alaska drowning Matthew who was later found in the submerged vehicle still strapped in his seatbelt. Armstrong escaped from the submerged vehicle saving his own life.
Armstrong was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to negligent homicide, driving under the influence and failure to insure his vehicle.
Because Armstrong had no insurance and Sozanski was trusted to care for Matt while on vacation, attorney Timothy McMahon, law firm of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, on behalf of Matt's family, sued Sozanski for Wrongful Death.
According to Alaska State Troopers, Sozanski and his group (that included Armstrong) were drinking on the banks of the Resurrection River in the middle of the night at a "bonfire". Sozanski brought Matt to the late night "bonfire party" instead of letting him sleep at the vacation home. When they left, Sozanski allowed Matt to ride with Armstrong who minutes later drove his vehicle straight into the Resurrection River after missing a turn on the road. It took almost 2 hours before Sozanski's group called for help. During this time it was suspected that members of the party were trying to destroy the evidence of drinking and other illicit activity, waiting for Armstrong's alcohol level to subside, and were developing their "story" to tell the police. While they waited to call police, Matt remained trapped to the back seat of the car submerged in the icy water at the bottom of the river.
Ultimately, hours later, Armstrong's blood alcohol level was tested and estimated to have been above the legal limit at the time of the accident. He also tested positive for marijuana. The investigation determined that Armstrong drove into the river after missing a turn on a dirt road. Armstrong had a previous citation of reckless driving with alcohol on his record.
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