Tuolumne County will defend itself in a lawsuit filed on behalf of an 11-year-old boy who was injured last year in a collision with a sheriff’s vehicle while crossing an intersection on his bicycle in downtown Sonora.
The complaint seeks at least $350,000 from the county for medical costs and damages incurred by Daniel Zinzun, who was 10 years old at the time of the collision on June 5, 2017, at the intersection of Stockton Road and South Washington Street.
Zinzun’s grandfather, Larry Smith, of Murphys, is identified as the boy’s guardian and claimant in the case.
The county Board of Supervisors met in closed session on Tuesday and voted 5-0 to allow the County Counsel’s Office to defend the county in the personal-injury lawsuit filed in Tuolumne County Superior Court.
Deputy County Counsel Christopher Schmidt said the lawsuit likely will be handled by outside attorneys with the California State Association of Counties’ Excessive Insurance Authority, a self-insurance risk pool that covers bodily injury and property damage claims against public agencies.
Any legal fees or potential settlement payments will be covered by the authority, which the county pays into for membership.
Zinzun was injured on the morning of June 5 when he was hit by a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Community Service Chevy pickup driven by Sheriff’s Office chaplain Dave Archibald.
The Sonora Police Department determined during the initial investigation that Archibald was in the right-hand turn lane of Stockton Road preparing to turn onto South Washington Street when he collided with Zinzun, who was riding his bicycle in the crosswalk.
A month later, Sonora Police Chief Turu VanderWiel announced that Archibald was determined not to be at fault for the collision because the boy had “failed to yield” and entered the crosswalk while Archibald was already in “forward motion.”
Zinzun was reported at the time to have suffered non-life-threatening injuries to his foot after being pinned under the vehicle before emergency responders arrived. He was taken to Adventist Health Sonora before being airlifted to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento for foot surgery.
The complaint stated that Zinzun suffered fractures and a degloving injury to his left foot, cuts and bruises, emotional distress and general damages, while reserving the right to amend the list at a later time.
Archibald and the Sheriff’s Office are also listed as defendants in the complaint that alleges the chaplain “negligently and carelessly operated the motor vehicle” that injured Zinzun.
Smith said conflicting testimony in the investigation led to the lawsuit.
“It didn’t add up,” he said. “There’s a reason that we asked for some legal help.”
Contact Alex MacLean at email@example.com or (209) 588-4530.