AP PHOTO/ROXANA AND CARLOS GUZMAN

Families of limo fire victims file lawsuits against several companies

Family members of the group of nine women — five of whom were killed — riding a limousine that burst into flames on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge as part of a wedding celebration in May filed a lawsuit Thursday against six companies associated with the limo.

The family members filed the wrongful death lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court and accused the companies involved with the manufacturing, maintenance and sale of the limousine involved in the May 4 incident of being negligent.

A mechanical problem was ruled by the California Highway Patrol in August as the cause of the fire that killed Neriza Fojas, 31, of Monterey; Jennifer Balon, 39, of Dublin; Anna Alcantara, 46, of San Lorenzo; Michelle Estrera, 35, of Fresno; and Felomina Geronga, 43, of Alameda.

The four survivors of the incident — caused when the suspension system failed and caused the driveshaft to make contact with the floorboard, generating friction that sparked the blaze — are Jasmin Deguia, 34, of San Jose; Mary Guardiano, 42, of Alameda; Nelia Arellano, 36, of Oakland; and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro.

The limo driver, Orville Brown, 46, also survived the accident.

The group had been celebrating the wedding of Fojas and were on the bridge headed to a Foster City hotel.

The companies named in the lawsuit are Accubuilt Inc., Accubuilt Acquisition Holdings Inc., DaBryan Coach Builders Inc., Ford Motor Company, Limo Stop Inc., and Bay Area Limousine Repair Inc.

The suit states that defects of the limo made the vehicle “unsafe and exposed the occupants and users of said vehicle and the general public on the roadways to foreseeable serious and disabling injuries.”

The limo, a 1999 Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine, was part of the fleet from Burlingame-based Limo Stop.

Since the accident, the limo company has been cited $7,500 by the California Public Utilities Commission for carrying nine passengers in the car when only seven were legally allowed.

The law firm representing Limo Stop, Matheny Sears Linkert & Jaime, said they have looked at the complaint but could not immediately comment. The San Bruno-based Bay Area Limousine Repair said the company was also not commenting on the lawsuit.

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