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Napa winery family sued following death in an irrigation pond
Litigation

Napa winery family sued following death in an irrigation pond

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Chancellor Steven Goforth

Chancellor Steven Goforth

A lawsuit has been filed in Napa County Superior Court over a motor vehicle incident on a Napa vineyard property a year ago that took the life of a 30-year-old Paso Robles man who was riding with an old college friend.

On April 2, 2020, Chancellor Steven Goforth died in a submerged 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser on the property of Olney Family Vineyards on the 2200 block of Dry Creek Road, according to the lawsuit.

Goforth was riding with Peter Allen Gill Olney at 3:30 a.m. when the Toyota rolled off a private driveway, down an embankment and into the irrigation pond, the California Highway Patrol reported.

Olney, then 27, escaped uninjured but Goforth was unable to exit the vehicle.

“Chance was found floating in the submerged vehicle,” said attorney Bradley Liggett who represents the Goforth family.

Goforth was taken by emergency workers to Queen of the Valley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead

Goforth's parents, Mark and Sherri Goforth, have brought the suit against the owner of the vehicle, Peter Olney, and Olney Family Vineyard and its owners, David Olney, and Shirley Gill-Olney. The lawsuit alleges that Peter Olney was behind the wheel and negligently lost control of his motor vehicle, causing the incident.

Both men were impaired, according to the Goforth family complaint. Olney ingested “large amounts of alcohol” and/or drugs before the accident, said the complaint. “He demonstrated a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others.”

Neither David Olney, Peter Olney nor a representative from Olney Family Vineyard could be reached for comment.  

Alcohol appeared to be a factor in the crash, according to the California Highway Patrol.  However, after a CHP investigation, no criminal charges were brought relating to Goforth’s death.

“The driver of this investigation was undetermined,” said Marc Renspurger, Napa CHP public information officer.

At the one year anniversary of his death, “Chance's family is still searching for answers about how such an unimaginable loss could happen,” Liggett said in a news release.

“Peter said it was Chance driving,” yet “there is a lot of evidence that suggests Peter was driving the vehicle, chief among them that it was Peter’s vehicle,” said Liggett in a phone interview. 

Regardless of who was driving, the Goforth family believes that Olney and the defendants bear some responsibility for their son’s death, Liggett said. They are asking for damages including economic, medical, loss of earnings and other costs. 

“Peter and Chance had met at college (and) were old college friends,” said attorney Liggett. 

Take a tour of the outside of Napa's historic Young Building. Located at 801 Coombs St. in downtown Napa, it was built around 1920. Today, a developer would like to build luxury condos, costing as much as $2 million each, on the second floor.

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You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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