The parents of UC Berkeley alumna Milanca Lopez, who died in a car crash last May, filed a lawsuit last week against her boyfriend, Jose Lumbreras, who was driving the car, as well as the UC Board of Regents and a UC Berkeley employee.
On May 18, 2012, 22-year-old Milanca Lopez and her 6-year-old son, Xavier Chevez, died from a car collision in which Lumbreras, her boyfriend and a UC Berkeley alumnus, was the driver. The lawsuit seeks financial compensation from Lumbreras and the UC Regents, claiming that Lumbreras incited physical, sexual and verbal abuse against Lopez in the months leading to the crash and that university authorities neglected to prevent this abuse.
“(While) we deeply regret the loss of innocent lives … we do not believe there is anything the university could’ve done to prevent Lumbreras from getting behind the wheel,” said Dan Mogulof, a UC Berkeley spokesperson.
Joel Siegal, a lawyer representing the Lopez family, said the family has taken a year since the accident to file the lawsuit because they have been busy coping with their grief and the handlings of the criminal proceedings. In a separate criminal case last week, Lumbreras was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter.
The recent lawsuit alleges that Lumbreras, a graduate student at UC Berkeley in the department of ethnic studies, used his position to lure Lopez into a sexually and physically abusive relationship. The 30-page lawsuit provides one such detailed account that accuses Lumbreras of forcing Lopez to have sex with him in front of her child. Other descriptions of alleged violence described in the case include verbal abuse against Lopez on the UC Berkeley campus, a break-in at Lopez’s home and destruction of her property.
The plaintiffs claim that the UC Regents should have known from prior records and incidents that Lumbreras presented an “unreasonable risk of harm to the health and safety” of Lopez and her son and that they should have taken action to prevent harm. The suit claims that because Lumbreras was a UC employee and because Lopez lived on UC property at University Village, university employees were responsible for monitoring the alleged abuse.
The Lopez family is also charging Cephas John, family housing coordinator at University Village. The lawsuit claims that Lopez contacted John informing him of Lopez’s abuse but that John failed to take action.
The lawsuit claims that UCPD officers were at Lopez’s apartment on two different instances to respond to calls of physical abuse but that they failed to make reports or remove Lumbreras for reported instances of abuse.
Paul Wolf, Lumbreras’ defense attorney, claims that there is no verification for many of the allegations of abuse presented against Lumbreras.
“The people who made (the allegations) had not spoken to Lopez recently and had not recently seen her,” Wolf said. “Those who had, at a party, observed that they were so in love.”