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Gardens couple can seek cash from drunk driver who hurt them in crash


A Palm Beach Gardens couple who incurred nearly $150,000 in medical bills after they were severely injured in an October 2014 alcohol-fueled crash may be able to recover money from a Loxahatchee man who caused it.

State prosecutors should have been allowed to seek restitution for Daniel and Eileen Ruda after Paul Sandomeno pleaded guilty to two counts of DUI in connection with the crash on Northlake Boulevard at Steeplechase Drive in Palm Beach Gardens, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday.

Now retired Palm Beach County Judge Barry Cohen denied the request for restitution because it came a week after he sentenced Sandomeno to five years in prison on the charges. But, the appeals court ruled, the request didn’t have to come at the time Sandomeno was sentenced. Prosecutors had 60 days to make it, the court ruled.

It ordered a new restitution hearing to determine if Sandomeno, 50, will be ordered to repay the Rudas for bills that were not covered by insurance. Restitution, the court noted, is mandatory unless a judge finds “clear and compelling reasons” not to order it.

Sandomeno had a blood-alcohol level of 0.37 percent when he was tested at St. Mary’s Medical Center after the crash. That is more than four times the 0.08 percent at which drivers in Florida are considered impaired.



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