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posted: 3/23/2012 7:28 PM

Lawsuit filed in Oak Brook DUI crash that injured mom, two girls

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  • Jose D. Rodriguez

    Jose D. Rodriguez


A lawsuit was filed Friday on behalf of two 6-year-old girls and an Oak Brook woman who were badly injured in head-on crash last fall as they drove home after seeing "The Sound of Music" in Oakbrook Terrace.

The lawsuit filed in Cook County court names Jose D. Rodriguez of Cicero. Prosecutors say he had a blood-alcohol level of .137 -- the legal threshold is .08 -- when he crossed the centerline on York Road in Oak Brook and plowed into the victims.

The crash left 6-year-old Emily Walsh of Burr Ridge with a fractured skull, brain hemorrhaging and a torn spleen. Her friend, 6-year-old Patricia Bennett of Oak Brook, sustained a broken clavicle and cuts. Bennett's mother Margaret Bennett, the driver, had a "horribly fractured" right leg, her attorney said.

"It's been a very difficult road for all of them," LaGrange attorney Grant Dixon said. "They all have different injuries and they're all doing their best to recover. It's pretty clear at this point that they're going to have lifelong injuries. Most accounts put them as lucky to be alive."

The 10-count complaint accuses Rodriguez, 26, of negligence, failure to yield, driving at a dangerous speed, and driving while "severely intoxicated," among other claims. It seeks unspecified damages of more than $50,000. Dixon said the victims were left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

He said the Nov. 12, 2011, crash was a devastating end to an otherwise fun night for the victims, who had been to a performance of "The Sound of Music" at Drury Lane Theater in Oakbrook Terrace.

About 8:45 p.m., they were southbound on York Road in Oak Brook when Rodriguez's oncoming Jeep Grand Cherokee sped up, veered into their lane and slammed into their minivan, according to prosecutors. Authorities said they found a dozen empty beer cans in Rodriguez's vehicle.

Dixon said details are still coming together, but it appeared to be a "very high-speed crash. The cars are a bloody mess," he said.

Rodriguez was treated for a neck injury and a broken hip. He remains in the DuPage County jail on $750,000 bail, charged with aggravated DUI.

Addison defense attorney Neil Levine, who represents Rodriguez in the criminal case, said he had not seen the lawsuit and had no immediate comment Friday.

Dixon said the girls, now age 7, were still receiving treatment for their injuries.

"Emotionally, these things take a heavy toll on kids, and I think it's safe to say both girls are suffering," he said. "The parents are trying to resume as much of a normal life as they can for both girls, but it's tough. Very tough."

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