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Stuart Elder sued by family of women who died in Pebble Beach crash

By KELLY NIX

Published: December 20, 2013

THE FAMILY of two women who died in a head-on collision in Pebble Beach when alleged drunken driver Stuart Elder slammed into their car after attending a food and wine event in Pebble Beach has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver.

On April 7, Sharon Daly, 72, and Linda Larone, 65, were killed when Elder, 30, of Pacific Grove, crashed his Cadillac Escalade into their much smaller Ford Freestyle while they were driving on Sloat Road near Bird Rock Road.

The lawsuit against Elder was filed Dec. 11 in Monterey County Superior Court by Anne Margaret Larone, Larone’s mother; Melanie Robinson, Daly’s niece; and Rhonda Dodge, trustee of the two women’s trust, according to the suit. The claim alleges Elder was negligent when he crossed over into Daly’s lane and struck her vehicle.

“Stuart Elder was negligently, carelessly, recklessly or in some other actionable manner driving the Cadillac Escalade under the influence of alcohol after spending the afternoon at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival,” the suit contends.


Charges long time in coming

After a lengthy investigation, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office charged Elder in November with two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count of causing great bodily injury to his passenger, Selvia Gattas, 20.

The civil lawsuit, filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by San Diego attorney Philip C. Aman, offers some insight into Elder’s whereabouts before the fatal accident. It also alleges Elder was driving more than twice the posted speed limit.

Elder and Gattas met with friends for dinner at an undisclosed restaurant “where alcoholic beverages were consumed by Stuart Elder,” according to the lawsuit.

The two then left the restaurant and went to the Inn at Spanish Bay, the suit contends, where more alcohol was consumed. Just prior to 7 p.m., Elder, “while intoxicated,” left Spanish Bay with Selvia Gattas and drove off in his Escalade, heading to a home in Pebble Beach. The suit alleges Elder and Gattas attended PBF&W from April 5-7 but doesn’t say whether they were at Spanish Bay for that event. 


‘70 in a 25 mph zone’

According to the lawsuit, Elder was driving 70 miles per hour, much faster than the posted 25 mph, and crossed the double yellow lines into the northbound lane of Sloat Road.

“Elder continued to travel in the northbound lane at this excessive speed when his Cadillac Escalade struck the Ford Freestyle driven by Sharon Daly head on,” causing fatal injuries to Daly and Larone.

Apart from alleging Elder was driving drunk, the lawsuit targets the speed at which he was driving the day of the accident. Elder had a “conscious disregard of the rights and safety of others” and his conduct was “despicable” and “constitutes malice,” according to the claim.

Michael Lukehart, a Bakersfield attorney representing Elder in his criminal case, said Elder is insured and that his insurance company’s attorneys will handle the civil matter.

While all three defendants, the suit says, have been deprived of the love, comfort, companionship and moral support that Larone and Daly provided them, Dodge, who is listed as the trustee for the women’s trust, has also incurred funeral, burial, medical and other expenses.

The claim also seeks punitive damages, which can be awarded in cases where a defendant has caused “malice and oppression.”

Elder owns ECI Building, Inc., a company that builds “custom homes to large commercial projects,” and did work on actress and Carmel Valley resident Doris Day’s house, according to its website.

Daly’s brother, Michael Daly, is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit “because he is unable to be joined as a plaintiff in this action, given that his consent to be joined was sought and unable to be obtained,” according to the lawsuit.

Daly and Larone were the former owners of Stone’s Pet Shop of Forest Avenue in Pacific Grove.