Drunk Driver Sues Restaurants and Friend After DUI-Related Manslaughter Conviction


A 2010 collision left two teenagers dead when a drunk driver rear ended their family’s vehicle.  Who were the victims of this tragedy? According to the drunk driver, the victims were the two teenagers… and him.

In 2011 James Ruiz of Santa Fe, New Mexico pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter for an accident that killed Deshauna Peshlakai, 17, and her sister, Del Lynn Peshlakai, 19. On March 25, 2010 Ruiz had been drinking with his friend Gilbert Mendoza at the Blue Corn Café and Applebee’s, both of which had served Ruiz alcohol that night. According to the Associated Press, Ruiz was out on bond and awaiting trial for his fifth DUI when the accident occurred. Ruiz’s blood alcohol content was almost three times the legal limit at 0.22 percent.

Two years into his 40-year sentence, Ruiz has filed a lawsuit in the Santa Fe District Court against the Blue Corn Café, Applebee’s and Mendoza.

Ruiz claims that the restaurants should have known that he had too much to drink and should have stopped serving him alcohol or stopped him from leaving. In fact, Ruiz’s lawsuit alleges that an Applebee’s employee working that night knew he was a “habitual drinking alcoholic.”

What’s more, Ruiz has also sued his, what I can only presume is, his former friend, Gilbert Mendoza. The law suit alleges that Mendoza was negligent in giving Ruiz the keys to Mendoza’s truck and letting him drive. In doing so, Ruiz says Mendoza should have known that he was putting himself and the public at risk.

Although the amount of monetary damages that Ruiz is seeking is not specified, Ruiz is seeking compensation for “pain and suffering, mental anguish and distress, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of earnings… loss of freedom and loss of enjoyment of life and liberty.”

I don’t doubt that there may be some lawyers out there who would’ve taken this case. Ruiz, however, has filed the lawsuit, which was handwritten from behind bars, without the assistance of an attorney. And although it’s normally my job to defend DUI cases, I’m having trouble seeing how this could be anything other than lawsuit abuse.

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