Gaslamp Cab Crash Victim Sues City

The cab jumped the curb outside a popular nightclub in the Gaslamp at closing time

A taxi suddenly veers off the road, slamming into a group of people outside a downtown nightclub.

More than a year later, after nine surgeries, victim Dominique Gambale and her husband are suing the cab company and the City of San Diego.

“In our opinion, they have a mandatory duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public,” said Gambale’s attorney, Vincent Bartolotta.

Bartolotta said the City of San Diego and Metropolitan Transportation System which regulates the cab industry need more oversight.

The California DMV limits driving hours for cabbies but Bartolotta says it’s not enforced here.

“Cities like San Francisco, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, a number of cities have all adopted those regulations. Not so in San Diego,” Bartolotta said.

City Ordinance 11 requires MTS to regularly inspect cabs, even set standards for drivers’ appearances and manners but doesn’t address the number of hours they work.

“It’s a little bit of Wild West out there,” said Peter Zchiesche with the Employee Rights Center says MTS needs to focus on protecting drivers and passengers.

“Because we have no cap on the lease rates and because we don’t regulate the business of the industry, drivers are left to drive as many hours as they can to make money,” he said.

He says MTS did nothing following the Gaslamp crash outside the popular nightclub Stingaree despite public outcry.

“I think they somehow need to answer for the consequences,” Zchiesche said.

NBC 7 spoke with MTS officials who directed questions to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the agency in charge of licensing cab drivers.

They referred inquiries regarding the lawsuit to the City Attorney’s office.

In an email response to the lawsuit, spokesperson Gina Coburn wrote: “Suing the City of San Diego because a taxi driver allegedly fell asleep at the wheel is ridiculous. This is an unfortunate incident but the City of San Diego is not liable.”

A spokesperson from the sheriff’s department told NBC 7 they can suspend or revoke a driver for having a high DUI point count. In 2011, they denied, revoked or suspended license for 94 cab drivers in San Diego County. 

This report originally aired on NBC 7 on April 5, 2012.

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