AP NEWS

Victim’s estate sues driver, carmaker over deadly 2017 crash

May 2, 2019

The estate of one of two men who died in a 2017 car crash in Santa Fe is suing General Motors and the man who has been charged with causing the crash by speeding through a stop sign and T-boning the men’s Chevrolet Cobalt.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the estate of Ian Sweatt, accuses the carmaker of failing to ensure the vehicle met five recognized principles of “crashworthiness”: maintaining “survival space,” providing proper restraint throughout the crash, preventing ejection, distributing energy and preventing post-crash fires.

According to the lawsuit, Sweatt, 33, and the driver of the Cobalt, Christopher Bryant, 30, were both wearing their seat belts when Mansoor Karimi’s BMW 335i slammed into them at the intersection of Camino Carlos Rey and and Plaza Verde around 8:20 p.m. Dec. 16, 2017.

“However, despite being properly seated and properly wearing the available seat belts, Bryant and Sweatt sustained fatal injuries because the subject vehicle violated several crashworthiness principals and thereby failed to protect them,” the complaint alleges.

The lawsuit also names Karimi, 41, as a defendant, saying he failed to drive in a reasonable and safe manner and ran a series of stop signs before colliding with the Cobalt.

Criminal charges are pending against Karimi — also called Karimi Mansoor in some court filings — who police said was driving about 50 mph in a 25 mph zone when the crash occurred.

Karimi was indicted more than two years ago on two counts of homicide by vehicle due to reckless driving and a count of failure to give information or render aid at the scene of an accident involving great bodily harm or death.

His case has been scheduled for trial twice but was reset both times — primarily, said Karimi’s attorney, Tom Clark, due to delays in discovery, a process of evidence sharing between prosecutors and the defense.

One of the delays, Clark said, has been the processing of a cellphone that was found on the driver’s seat of Bryant’s vehicle following the crash.

In a November motion in the case, the cellphone was shown in a photo of Bryant’s seat following the fatal crash, but police never examined it for evidence, Clark said.

“Whether Mr. Bryant was either texting, talking or otherwise using his telephone at the time of the accident is extremely relevant to this case,” Clark wrote in the motion. “If Mr. Bryant was using his telephone prior to, or at the time of the crash, this would be exculpatory evidence for the defendant.”

Clark said the judge ordered the phone be examined by the Santa Fe Police Department, but it was too damaged and has since been sent to an expert in Arizona to see if any information can be retrieved from it.

According to online court records in the case, police did not suspect Karimi of drinking alcohol when the crash occurred, but toxicology reports showed Bryant had marijuana and alcohol in his system at the time of the crash; Sweatt tested positive for marijuana but not alcohol.

Karimi could face 13 1/2 years in prison if he’s convicted on the two charges of vehicular homicide and a charge of failure to render aid.

“District Attorney [Marco] Serna has been ready to move forward on this case since the last docket call and adamantly opposed the continuance requested by defense, which was just one of many made by the defendant,” a spokesman for Serna’s office said in an email last week.

“This case has had multiple issues raised by the defense and litigated pretrial, but again, the District Attorney has been ready to move forward,” the email said.

The civil complaint on behalf of Sweatt’s estate seeks an unspecified amount of damages from Karimi and General Motors.

Clark said he had not yet seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on the filing.

General Motors did not respond to a message seeking comment.