Ordinary negligence or Gross negligence

In California, vehicular manslaughter is defined as an accident in which a driver causes an accident by violating a traffic law and the accident causes another person’s death. The driver may be charged with exercising “ordinary negligence,” or “gross negligence.” Prosecutors particularly apply the gross negligence charge to a fatal car accident that involves alcohol. However, there are circumstances when gross negligence can be charged even when alcohol is proven to be not a factor.

Toxicology test confirmed she was not under the influence

Investigators concluded that Jennie Zhu, a 58-year-old San Francisco resident, had been speeding for blocks before the crashing her speeding Mercedes-Benz into a minivan and killing a 16-year-old boy. She has been charged with felony gross vehicular manslaughter, prosecutors said.

The crash killed Lincoln High School junior Kevin San, who was in the minivan with his mother and sister, both of whom were seriously injured. The mother was initially in a coma. Three people in a catering van that was also struck were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Zhu suffered minor injuries.

Investigators found no evidence that Zhu had driven through red lights or had exceeded 80 mph, contrary to earlier reports from police, records show. A toxicology test confirmed she was not under the influence.

Though a toxicology test confirmed she was not under the influence, she was arraigned on one felony count of gross vehicular manslaughter and two felony counts of reckless driving. If convicted, she faces up to seven years and four months in jail, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said.

It is likely, in this case, the prosecutors concluded that the driver was reportedly “speeding for blocks” and that constituted gross negligence. If the prosecutors succeed in proving their case, the defendant may receive a sentence appropriate for a case involving a drunken driver.

Daniel R. Perlman
The Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman