Lawsuit alleges Del Mar, San Diego should be liable for median in April 2022 crash that killed two teens

The driver of the vehicle crashed onto Torrey Pines State Beach after striking a median
The driver of the vehicle crashed onto Torrey Pines State Beach after striking a median on North Torrey Pines Road in San Diego, shortly after driving southbound through Del Mar.
Mapbox, OpenStreetMap

In a separate case, the driver also faces criminal charges for murder and DUI


A passenger who was injured in a fatal car crash off North Torrey Pines Road last year filed a lawsuit against the cities of Del Mar and San Diego, alleging that the median in the road presented a “dangerous condition.”

A separate case has also been moving forward against the driver, Riverside resident Christopher Ray Schmittel. Superior Court records allege that Schmittel was driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, while also speeding shortly before the crash. He faces criminal charges including murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs after two teenage passengers were killed.

Schmittel, who was 19 on April 25, 2022, and two other teens in the car were injured but survived the crash.

They were headed southbound in a Subaru WRX on Camino Del Mar in the city of Del Mar, crossing the border into the city of San Diego as the street turned into North Torrey Pines Road, according to police and court records. Shortly before 11 p.m, Schmittel struck a median on the 13000 block and veered into the northbound lane.

Adrian Garcia, who is also from Riverside County, was in the front passenger seat. His complaint alleges that as Schmittel tried to turn back into the southbound lane, the median caused the car to roll over the guardrail, onto Torrey Pines State Beach.

“North Torrey Pines Road, where the raised, concrete and asphalt center median is located, was, and remains, a dangerous condition because it creates a substantial risk of injury,” read Garcia’s complaint, filed June 1 in Superior Court.

The complaint also notes an excerpt of a police report by SDPD Officer James Zirpolo.

“Having worked this area in the past, I have investigated dozens of collisions,” Zirpolo wrote. “Most of them involve a southbound driver hitting the center island with their left front tire.”

Garcia’s injuries included a concussion and left hand fracture, according to court records. His lawsuit seeks damages for past and future medical expenses, lost earnings, and general damages.

The complaint notes that the median is within the city of San Diego, but Del Mar is included as a defendant because, “Roadside markings and warnings of the upcoming dangerous condition could and should have been placed” on the Del Mar side of the border.

Garcia had also filed a legal claim with the cities of Del Mar and San Diego in October 2022. Legal claims typically precede a lawsuit against a government body, allowing it to pay a claim or try to negotiate a settlement without litigation.

The legal claim said that Schmittel’s “alleged negligent or criminal conduct as the driver of the vehicle does not break the causal chain in this case.”

“There is a proximate causal connection between the median and Adrian’s injuries,” the legal claim added.

Renee Stackhouse, an attorney representing Garcia, did not respond to a request for comment.

But Del Mar City Manager Ashley Jones said in an email that the city issued a wrong entity denial notice Dec. 2, noting that “the City does not own, operate, control and/or maintain the operations or property which gave rise to the claim.”

A case management conference is scheduled for Nov. 3. Later that month, Schmittel’s felony jury trial is scheduled to begin.