Shoemaker sues Calif. for $20 million

April 17, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- Bill Shoemaker, horse racing's winningest jockey, is suing the state of California for $20 million, saying it was responsible for a car accident on April 8, 1991, in San Dimas that left him a quadriplegic from a severe spinal cord injury.

In the suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, zTC Shoemaker claims the state failed to install guardrails or a sign warning of a dangerous road condition that resulted in his car's tumbling down a steep embankment.

At the time of the accident, tests showed that Shoemaker's blood-alcohol level was 0.13, above the legal limit, but he was not charged with driving under the influence. State law considers a driver under the influence if the level is .08 or above.

"We know he was out drinking, and he drove off the road and apparently was not wearing a seat belt," said Christopher Hiddleson, an attorney for the state. "This accident is a case of a driver who was intoxicated who wants taxpayers to pay him $20 million."

Neil Papiano, Shoemaker's attorney, says that Shoemaker could not have been drunk.

"Bill had spent the day playing in a golf tournament [at Sierra La Verne Country Club] and somebody got a hole-in-one, so he went into the bar and had two drinks. Somebody bought two rounds," Papiano said. "Then Bill got in his car and left for home, and the accident occurred within 10 minutes. He didn't stop any place.

"The test was skewed in some fashion. It could be because of his size or the proximity to the accident, in that he had the drinks minutes before his test."

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