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DUI crash results in lawsuit

LIHUE — A victim in a 2013 drunken driving accident filed a civil suit against the driver, car occupants and bar owner that served them.

Shawn Valmoja, 24, of Lawai, filed a vehicle negligence with injury suit Dec. 8 in 5th Circuit Court against defendants, Justin Bermudez, Mark Jose, and Richie Ogata, related to an accident on May 26, 2013.

Valmoja was driving east in a 1999 Honda Civic along Kaumualii Highway in Kalaheo when his car was struck by a pickup truck owned by Jose, but being driven by Bermudez.

The truck was reportedly heading west and crossed the center line and collided with Valmoja’s car.

Valmoja suffered serious and permanent bodily injury. The complaint is seeking lost wages and incurred expenses for current and future medical, rehabilitative and related care and treatment.

The suit charges negligence against all of the defendants.

Jose, 22, was named as a defendant for allowing Bermudez to drive his vehicle knowing he was under the influence.

Bermudez, 21, of Hanapepe, was arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant and pleaded no contest in the criminal case in Kauai District Court on July 3. A second charge of inattention to driving was dismissed and he was sentenced to a $500 fine on Sept. 9.

He was also ordered to pay $14,114 in restitution to Valmoja, undergo driver’s education as well as a substance abuse evaluation.

Richie Ogata, 43, of Lihue, is a defendant as the liquor license holder and owner-manager of the former Richie’s Bar & Grill.

Richie’s, which has since closed, was operating on Umi Street in Lihue. Ogata allegedly served liquor to defendant Mark Jose, who was underage at 20 years old at the time.

The complaint alleges that Richie’s also served Justin Bermudez, who was 21 and of legal drinking age, but was intoxicated and should not have been served.

The suit notes violations of Hawaii liquor laws along with charges of emotional distress and punitive damages in the civil suit.

The case was assigned to Judge Kathleen Watanabe. No hearings have been scheduled.

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