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Survivor of fatal St. Charles crash sues driver
By Josh Stockinger | Daily Herald Staff

Onofrio Lorusso


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Published: 8/7/2009 12:00 AM

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One of the survivors from a June 17 fatal crash in St. Charles has filed suit against the driver and his father, claiming they both played a role in the accident, which killed a 17-year-old passenger.

The lawsuit, filed in Kane County Circuit Court this week, seeks more than $50,000 in damages and legal costs for 17-year-old Chelsea Mertz of St. Charles, whose attorney says she sustained a broken jaw and brain injury in the crash.

Mertz was one of four teenagers in a sport utility vehicle that went off the road and slammed into two trees on the 3100 block of Royal Fox Drive at 3:22 a.m., killing front-seat passenger Cameron Godee of West Chicago.

The lawsuit accuses the driver, Onofrio "Josh" Lorusso, 18, of Wayne, of negligence for driving more than 40 miles above the speed limit, on the wrong side of the road, and under the influence of alcohol and marijuana. The suit also names his father, who has the same name, and accuses him of failing to intervene when he "knew or should have known" his son would drive a group of St. Charles East High School classmates home from graduation parties while intoxicated.

"Everybody knew this was the night of graduation parties," Mertz's attorney, Michael Clancy, said Thursday.

Lorusso has been charged with 12 counts of aggravated DUI and four counts of reckless homicide. Police have said his blood-alcohol content was nearly three times the legal threshold, and he tested positive for marijuana.

Defense attorney Vince Solano declined to comment on specifics of the lawsuit Thursday, citing his client's ongoing criminal case, but said it was not a surprise.

Mertz, one of two back seat passengers who survived the crash, had her jaw surgically wired shut and is undergoing rehabilitative therapy for her brain injury, Clancy said. She is recovering, he said, though the long-term effects of the brain injury remain to be seen.

"She's having some language difficulty now," he said. "It's just too soon to know how things are going to be down the road."

In addition to Lorusso and his father, the lawsuit names Lorusso's father's employer, who owned the vehicle, according to the lawsuit. The matter goes to a judge Oct. 20.