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Injured passenger sues driver in fatal STC crash

ST. CHARLES – A St. Charles teen is suing a former classmate after a crash that caused her brain injury and killed another teen.

A lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of 17-year-old Chelsea Mertz against Onofrio Lorusso, 18, of Wayne, his father of the same name, and the family's business – West Chicago-based Active Concrete, Inc. Lorusso faces multiple aggravated drunken driving and reckless homicide charges in connection with the June 14 fatal crash in St. Charles.

The civil complaint claims the younger Lorusso was negligent because he was drunk and high when he crashed an SUV with Mertz as one of his three passengers. It further claims that his father was negligent because he allowed his son to use the company SUV and should have known it would happen.

The crash on Royal Fox Drive also resulted in the death of 17-year-old Cameron Godee of West Chicago.

Mertz suffered "severe" injuries, including a brain injury and a fractured jaw, said Michael Clancy, Mertz's attorney.

He said Thursday that it is unclear how well Mertz will recover from the crash, but she returned home from the hospital last month and continues to undergo physical, occupational and speech therapy.

The Lorussos did not return phone calls Thursday, but their attorney, Vince Solano, said he knew of the lawsuit but had yet to read the complaint. He added that the insurance company and its attorney are likely to handle the civil matter.

The lawsuit states that Lorusso's father allowed him to use the SUV to transport friends to and from high school graduation parties.

In the early morning hours of June 14, Lorusso's Ford Explorer was speeding by at least 40 miles per hour on the wrong side of the road before it left the roadway and crashed into mailboxes and trees, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors have said Lorusso's blood alcohol level was 0.227 – nearly three times the legal 0.08 limit – and he had marijuana in his system at the time of the crash.

The lawsuit claims Lorusso's state made him negligent.

It also claims his father knew or should have known drugs and alcohol would be a factor because his son "habitually drove in excess of the speed limit, often after having consumed drugs and/or alcohol."

The complaint also states that Lorusso's father failed to set a curfew or check on his son before the crash.

The lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount in excess of $50,000. It's scheduled to be heard in court Oct. 20 before Judge Stephen Sullivan.

Lorusso is scheduled to appear in court on the criminal matter Aug. 20 when he's expected to plead not guilty to the charges.

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