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Victim sues Colfax I-80 teen rock throwers, parents

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Three Colfax teens convicted of assault charges stemming from an Interstate 80 overpass rock-throwing incident last year are now being sued by the driver injured when a large rock crashed through his front window. Sacramento resident Jose Palomera suffered serious facial injuries and the three – Hunter Owens, 17, also known as Hunter Perez, Samuel Edward Quinlan, 17, and Sean Edwin Steele, 18 – were sentenced last October to 10 months in Placer County’s Juvenile Detention Center. They entered “no contest” pleas to assault-with-a-deadly-weapon charges. Palomera has launched a lawsuit in Placer County court that alleges battery as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. No dollar amount for injuries and damages is specified in court documents obtained by the Journal. An attorney for one of the three – Jess Bedore, who represents Quinlan – has issued a response that denies all allegations, including the premise that Palomera has suffered long-term injuries. The three teens – all students of Colfax High School on summer break at the time of the July 26 incident – were allowed to return full-time to the school last January and completed their sentences in the spring. Quinlan and Owens returned to the school this year and are playing again on the Colfax Falcons varsity football team. The lawsuit says a rock the size of a basketball was tossed from the overpass and through Palomera’s windshield. The rock crushed his jaw and broke several bones in his cheek. He was hospitalized for several days and had to have his jaw wired shut. Palomera said Wednesday that he continues to have attacks of nerves when he drives. Dental surgery is continuing to take place, he added. “There’s still a lot of pain and suffering,” Palomera said. “I’m nervous to be on the road.” While not identified in the lawsuit, the parents of Owens, Quinlan and Steele are also being sued. According to Palomera’s suit, filed by Sacramento attorney John Beals, the three teens “roamed the streets of Colfax unsupervised” on July 25 and 26, 2010, “drunk until inebriated,” and that “the plaintiff believes that the defendants obtained alcohol from one or more of their custodial parents.” The three found a “voluminous supply of large, heavy rocks and construction equipment” that was not guarded or secured to throw off an overpass with a guard railing that was too low in height to prevent it, the lawsuit states. Palomera’s lawsuit – which has its first court date Oct. 25 in Roseville – also names Placer County, the city of Colfax and the state Department of Transportation as defendants. Colfax attorney Brian Haydon stated that there is insufficient evidence to link Colfax property to the case and if it did, it created “trivial risk.” State of California attorneys also claimed in their initial response to the lawsuit that the risks created by conditions related to state property were “trivial and insignificant.” Brett Holt, attorney for Placer County, said the lawsuit contains insufficient facts to constitute a viable claim against the county and evidence will show that other parties were at fault.