The parents of a USC graduate student who was killed when a university police car collided with her vehicle near an entrance to the campus late last year filed a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday against the university and the other driver.
Michael and Jill Dresser, the parents of 23-year-old Kelsey Dresser, are seeking unspecified damages.
A USC spokesman said he could not comment on ongoing litigation, but offered a previously released statement regarding the collision on behalf of the university.
“USC’s public safety officers dedicate themselves to protecting students, staff, faculty and everyone who visits the university,” the statement reads. “This was an unprecedented and heartbreaking event for the entire USC community and our condolences go out to the family and friends of Kelsey Dresser.”
The lawsuit alleges that USC Department of Public Safety Officer Miguel Guerra, having worked consecutive graveyards, was short on sleep when his vehicle crashed into Dresser’s car about 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 3.
He was driving east on Jefferson at just under 70 mph in a 25 mph zone, the suit alleges. Dresser had just turned left from Jefferson Boulevard onto Royal Street near an entrance to the university, according to the suit.
“The effect of his sleep deprivation was equivalent to a blood-alcohol content of .08 or greater,” the complaint alleges. “The electronic crash data from his vehicle also shows that his throttle was 100 percent engaged.”
Guerra’s emergency lights and siren were turned off, the suit states.
“He did not watch out for traffic ahead of him as he was either using his cell phone, his DPS vehicle computer monitor or he was falling asleep,” the suit alleges.
Guerra waited until a half-second before impact to push hard on the brakes and “inexplicably steered his vehicle out of his lane directly into Kelsey’s,” according to the complaint.
USC public safety officials knew of the dangers of driving a campus police car with insufficient sleep, but allowed Guerra to do so anyway, the suit states.
Dresser, who graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2014 with a degree in psychology and was enrolled at the USC Rossier School of Education, died a day after the collision.
–City News Service