A Lyft driver who spoke no English and didn’t know the ride-sharing company barred transporting minors picked up a 13-year-old girl sneaking out of her gated-community home in her pajamas at 1:30 a.m. one July morning, and then took her to her boyfriend’s home hours before she was killed in a crash, lawyers say in an amended lawsuit complaint.
But in a motion to dismiss, lawyers for Lyft note that honor student Karenine Saint Louis spent at least four hours at Jimmy Aguirre’s Greenacres home and died at 5:30 a.m. as the then-17-year-old boy drove her home in his pickup. The report on the crash says the two were the only ones in the 2002 Ford F-150. As a result, the lawyers said, Lyft can’t possibly be responsible for her death, under a legal concept known as “intervening cause.”
No charges have been filed in the crash. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office says it will not provide either additional details or documents because its investigation is not finished. A crash report said neither person wore seat belts and that there’s no indication that either alcohol or drugs were involved.
On July 17, Josie Saint Fleur sued Lyft in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, saying the driver violated a policy that forbids drivers to transport children 17 and under who are alone.
Lawyers have said that, if not for Lyft’s improper action, the girl never would have been in the boy’s truck when it slammed into two trees west of Lantana.
The lawsuit also names as defendants Jimmy Aguirre and his mother.
In an revised complaint filed Friday, lawyers for the mother say that late on the evening July 8, the two teens discussed a clandestine rendezvous at the boy’s home in a “lower income, high-crime area” 8 miles away from the girl’s gated community in suburban Boynton Beach.
The girl’s grandmother was asleep and her mother, a nurse who was working an overnight shift, thought the girl was home in her bed. The mother has since said she never had never heard of the boy before the crash.
The two teens “both knew that Karenine’s family obviously would not allow her to go to the home of a 17-year-old male, particularly late at night,” the suit says.
State records show Jimmy Aguirre, who turned 18 after the crash, had a Class E learner’s permit, which requires someone who’s at least 21 be in the front seat when he drives.
The suit says the couple opted to call Lyft. It says driver Leonardo Zambrano Dey picked up Karenine right just after 1:10 a.m. and dropped her at the boy’s home about 15 minutes later. It says Dey does not speak English, never read the ban on taking minors and wasn’t even able to communicate with his rider.
That placed the girl “in a foreseeably dangerous zone of risk,” the suit says.
About 4½ hours the girl was dropped off, Jimmy discovered the balance was too low on his parents’ Lyft account, which he’d used to bring Karenine to him, and he “had no option” to sneak her back home except driving her himself, the lawsuit says.
The girl was in the front seat of the pickup, possibly headed from his home to hers, when he lost control of the vehicle on a wet road. Jimmy suffered minor injuries. Karenine died, the suit said, “before dawn before her family ever knew Lyft had removed her from her safe home and placed her in peril.”
But Lyft, in its motion to dismiss, says it “did not proximately cause” Karenine’s death.
Lawyers invoked the “intervening cause” legal concept, which argues a person can’t be responsible if something happens in between their act and an injury and it can’t be proven that the initial act directly caused the damage.
Lyft’s motion said there is no legal basis “to argue that it was reasonably foreseeable that, several hours after a Lyft ride, Saint Louis would get into a vehicle with an unlicensed driver, much less that the driver would operate the vehicle negligently, crash, and kill St. Louis.”