The parents of Matthew Hurlbutt filed a lawsuit against the city and county of San Luis Obispo, as well as a local doctor for their son's 2010 death. Jessica Tam – Mustang Daily

A lawsuit has been filed against a local doctor and the city and county of San Luis Obispo districts of California Department of Transportation (Caltrans District 5) by the parents of a Cal Poly student who died April 4, 2010. 

The parents of Matthew Hurlbutt, the 21-year-old student who was hit by a truck while walking on Highway 101 near the Santa Rosa Street exit, are filing negligence for the accident.

Toxicology reports state that the industrial engineering junior had significant amounts of alcohol, cocaine and marijuana in his system when he walked onto the freeway. He was hit by a 2002 Toyota Tacoma at approximately 1 a.m. by driver Ronald Reinhardt and was pronounced dead at the scene. Officers investigating the scene said Reinhardt could not have evaded the accident.

Lee and Michelle Hurlbutt are suing Caltrans based on their claims that the freeway area did not have enough lighting or warning signs and barriers to prevent pedestrians from crossing and going onto the freeway.

The lawsuit states: “The area was so poorly lit that the dangers of crossing there were concealed, and further, it was so dark at that area, that when decedent did cross the US-101 he was not visible to the driver that struck him until after he had been struck by the driver.”

Since this is an imminent case, Caltrans is alert of the lawsuit but cannot comment any further.

“We’re aware of the case, and we generally do not comment on pending litigations,” Jim Shivers, public information officer for Caltrans District 5 said.

Furthermore, the one-sided lawsuit filed March 29 in the San Luis Obispo Superior Court has local doctor Atsuko Rees amongst the listed parties. It claims the doctor prescribed Hurlbutt with medical marijuana, harming his safety conditions. The lawsuit argues that Hurlbutt did not need marijuana for any medical purposes.

The lawsuit continues to claim that Rees was “known in the college community as the ‘Pot Doc,’ and when someone wanted a prescription for marijuana for recreational use, Rees was the doctor to see.” It further states “no examination would be conducted as long as $250 cash was provided” in her medical business.

When asked about the lawsuit claim, the doctor had “no comment because they’re just allegations.”

Additionally, according to the claim against the county, the Hurlbutt family is charging $3,005,000 in damages – $5,000 in “funeral and other burial expenses” and $3 million in “wrongful death.”

Assistant county counsel Rita Neal said the county has denied the claim.

“The county wouldn’t have control over it,” Neal said. “(We) suspect that this was an incident that couldn’t have been avoided.”

The lawsuit also states the following: “The City of San Luis Obispo, county of San Luis Obispo and Caltrans at all times had actual knowledge of the existence of the dangerous conditions of the subject roadway and knew, or should have known, of its dangerous character a sufficient period of time prior to the injury to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous conditions.”

In an email statement, San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx said, “This is a very sad situation,” and that her “heart goes out to his family.”

The city attorneys for San Luis Obispo have been out of state for conferences and were not available to respond.

The Hurlbutt family will represent themselves.

The involved parties are set for a case management conference in Judge Charles Crandall’s courtroom of San Luis Obispo August 2 at 9 a.m.

Crandall also dealt with a wrongful death suit filed against Sigma Alpha Epsilon in regards to Cal Poly student Carson Starkey’s death.

Links to Lawsuit PDF’s:

Lee Claim
Michelle Claim
Lee Rejection
Michelle Rejection

Join the Conversation


  1. Everyone is to blame except for the individual who drank/smoke/snorted their way onto a freeway on foot in the dead of night.

    It’s sad situation, but no one is directly responsible or liable except for the student who made the choices…

  2. Oh, and who is responsible for the cocain in his system? It had to have been someone’s fault other than the kid who snorted it.
    This is tragic, but there is no one else to blame…

  3. Silly kids…don’t you know that nothing is ever anyone’s fault in our society. All hail the nanny state!

  4. Oh please. So the guy gets messed up on drugs and walks on the freeway where, DUH he gets hit and killed, and somehow magically it’s NOT his fault? WTF is wrong with people. It’s not CalTrans fault that their son made a bad choice that killed him. It’s also not Poly’s fault either. They should be totally ashamed of themselves for going after Poly for this. The school already has budget problems and this is just making it worse because people like them are greedy jerks who can’t get over the fact that their son IS AT FAULT. It is really sad that he was killed, but they should do something constructive with their grief, not sue everyone because they can. I’m sure their son would be really happy to know his death fueled their greed.

  5. It’s also real pathetic that they somehow believe that they are entitled to THREE MILLION dollars. It’s disgusting and it’s really handy that the lawyer from the frat party is involved. I’m sure he had nothing to do with getting them to sue. What about just accepting the fact that their son screwed up and is dead like any normal parents would instead of going after people because they’re entitled and feel wronged. The world is not fair and people like them don’t deserve a dime. They should be ashamed of themselves. I hope the judge drops their case and they don’t get anything but lawyer bills because that’s all they deserve. I’m sick of idiots like this clogging up the court systems and taking time away from people who actually have a real court case.

    1. Uh … reading comprehension please.

      1. The family is not suing Cal Poly.
      2. The family is representing themselves in this suit … hence … no lawyer fees.

      It does take some sand for them to blame everyone but their son for his death. My guess is is that they won’t even make it to trial, nor should they.

      But maybe there is some good to come of this suit. If evidence is brought to light that the “Pot Doc” has been prescribing pot for people without pain and without examining them, I hope the state yanks his medical license. That’s fraud, folks.

    2. First off, can you read? The family is not getting Cal Poly involved. The article states that he was a Cal Poly student. Secondly, YOU have no idea what was in his system when he crossed the freeway. YOU didn’t know him, so WHO ARE YOU to have any opinion about him, his family, or this case for that matter. All you know is what you’ve read in the media, and if you have had ANY form of higher education you should be aware of how accurate news reports can be. However judging by your naive response, I’m assuming higher education is something you lack.

  6. This dumb as fuck, he shouldn’t have done that in the first place

    It’s completely wrong to sue the doctor who prescribed him marijuanna.

    How old do you have to be to make decisions on your own? He made the decisions that he did that night and he should be responsible for that

    Sucks that this shit happened but it could have been avoided if he hadn’t gone full retard and tried to cross a freeway

  7. My heart goes out to Matt’s family. I can’t imagine how difficult the past year must have been for them. Does that entitle them to a pile of money? Absolutely not.

    I can’t help but feel that this episode will only damage the memory of Matt. Rather than being remembered for the wonderful man that he was, Matt’s name will be remembered for the frivolous lawsuit his parents placed against two entities NOT at fault in his tragic death.

    Would the Hurlbutt family’s energy be better spent reminding other college kids about the dangers of over-indulgence, risky behavior and feelings of invincibility like those that led to Matt’s death? That would be a cause people could get behind.

  8. This is ridiculous! There is nobody to blame except Matt himself because it all sums up to poor choices being made. To drink, to acquire and use pot through unethical means, to cross the freeway…all bad choices which led to him losing his life. Nothing the city or county or Cal Trans is responsible for. Sure the lighting could be better, but the chances that would’ve made him live are slim to none. If anyone is to blame, it is his parents and friends that allowed such bad choices and behaviors. Also that doctor should be investigated and charged accordingly.

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