“Teen passenger in speeding car sues driver who was hit”

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2009

Investigators for the Salem, Mass. police concluded that the Pereira cousins’ vehicle had been speeding along recklessly at 81 mph when they collided with the Honda Odyssey minivan of Christine Speliotis and her passenger; Timothy Pereira now faces multiple charges while police concluded that Speliotis was traveling at a reasonable speed and did not charge her with wrongdoing. Now Brandon Pereira, who was a passenger in his cousin’s vehicle and severely injured in the crash, is suing Speliotis, who with her passenger suffered broken bones and other injuries. His attorney, Roland Hughes, provided this quote to the Salem News: “Basically, under Massachusetts law I’m trying to get compensation for my client anywhere I can.”

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Simple Justice
08.02.09 at 7:11 pm

{ 20 comments }

1 Bob Lipton 08.02.09 at 12:32 am

Has Mister Hughes considered suing himself on behalf of his client?

Bob

2 Tom Murin 08.02.09 at 2:56 am

There is nothing unusual here – this is routine in auto cases. The negligent free guess passenger sues both drivers. The police determination of fault/non fault doesn’t really mean anything – Speliotis could be found to be liable by a jury (if she doesn’t get out via a summary judgment on liability first).

3 VMS 08.02.09 at 8:23 am

It would be legal malpractice not to sue the drivers of both vehicles.

4 Richard Nieporent 08.02.09 at 9:05 am

Thanks for the explanation Tom and VMS. You make me feel so good about our legal system. So is he also suing the car manufacturers? After all they do have the deepest pockets (well maybe not GM and Chrysler :)).

5 Bob Lipton 08.02.09 at 9:17 am

Messrs. Murin and VMS, I find myself more bothered by your attitude towards the course of suing Speliotis than the suit itself. The suit, inherently unjust if Speliotis is blameless as the police think he is, could simply be an abberation. Your statements, that it is a routine case and that it would be malpractice not to sue Speliotis, however, shows a casual acceptance towards this injustice that this site is dedicated to exposing.

Might I suggest that, should I simply be misreading your attitude due to your unadorned statemtns of fact, that you try adding “I regret to say” or some other premable to clear up matters to dunderheads such as me?

Bob

6 Peter Eipers 08.02.09 at 10:48 am

Perhaps it is because I am a layman with no legal training that I don’t understand why the law permits, the courts allow, and lawyers make common practice of suing everyone involved in an incident, instead of, you know, the party clearly at fault.

(Yes, yes, deep pockets and all that. But there outa be a law…)

7 Commentor 08.02.09 at 11:49 am

Peter,

A third party won’t be able to prevent the party clearly at fault from nevertheless blaming the other party, so they generally add the other party so that everyone who is getting blamed is in the case. It also gets all of the insurance companies involved.

This is an extreme case where it probably wasn’t necessary, but the lawyer probably thought it was better safe than sorry.

This is also an example of why attorney’s should not comment on pending cases.

8 Tom Murin 08.02.09 at 11:53 am

Mr. Lipton. Bothered by my attitude? My attitude has nothing to do with my comment. I’m just pointing out that filing suit against a driver who doesn’t appear to be at-fault is routine.

I’ve spent the majority of my career in insurance handling automobile claims (as a claim representative for the insurance company – I am not a lawyer) defending these suits. Speliotis will be defended by her insurance company and she will likely get dismissed from the case after some discovery is conducted (and a few thousand dollars expended by her insurance carrier) , or perhaps the case will settle against the at-fault driver and be dropped against her….However, it is also possible a judge could deny a summary judgment motion and say that the at-fault determination is a matter for the jury.

Under the “American Rule” – Speliotis (her insurance carrier actually) will bear the cost of her defense without recourse against the plaintiff. I’d like to see a change to the “English Rule” where the loser pays.

9 Bob Neal 08.02.09 at 12:18 pm

Don’t blame the messenger telling you how it is. P’s lawyer would indeed be commiting malpractice if he failed to sue all involved. To answer another question on this thread, I’m certain at least one auto manufacturer is a defendant also – on a crashworthiness theory.

We need to change this system. Until then, P’s counsel is doing his job.

10 Melvin H. 08.02.09 at 12:23 pm

What about Spelotis siung the driver of the car that hit him….and also suing not only the driver of that car, but Pereira as well in a countersuit (and also bringing some kind of action against the lawyer, Mr. Hughes, for frivolous action [or similar])?

11 Robert 08.02.09 at 12:25 pm

Amazing! So basically it all comes down to this: Would the plaintiff appear more sympathetic to a jury than the defendant? If the person who got hurt was some presentable clean-cut all-American jock/honor-student while the defendant was some not-so-presentable shlub, then they might win at a Jury trial!

(I learned this lesson during several patent infringement cases I was dragged into…basically it’s a coin toss with a Jury–nobody understands the patents–and the more sympathetic “little guy” has a big advantage over a Big Company.)

12 SmartDude 08.02.09 at 12:45 pm

This type of total injustice is what (justifiably) enrages any normal human.

Jackpot Justice Professional Gamblers from the Lawsuit Industry are utterly blind to the problem here.

13 Peter Eipers 08.02.09 at 1:37 pm

Commentor

At some level, I understand your points and the issues involved in these types of cases. But as a scientist, I am amazed disappointingly frequently by the wasteful lack of logic and common sense found in our system of law- an observation that, of course, serves as the foundation of this web site.

14 Jennifer 08.02.09 at 2:39 pm

The problem with this country is we are all so quick to sue. Both kids were at fault, so they should deal with it. that poor lady was minding her own business , driving a long and BAM! This happy go-lucky lets sue everyone is why my insurance rates are so high! I hope neither one of those teenagers gets a dime. if they do it will only send the message that high speeds and drag racing are cool. That lawyer should be ashamed of himself for allowing the passenger to sue.

15 kimsch 08.02.09 at 6:55 pm

Two words: Loser Pays.

A few more words: attorney pays if (s)he brings a frivolous/losing suit.

Also, more judges should use their discretion to dismiss suits like the judge in the jacket case, where the judge dismissed the charges because generally people know that if one pulls an elastic to its furthest length and lets go, it will come back at a fast pace.

16 rar 08.02.09 at 8:48 pm

“The negligent free guess passenger sues both drivers”. He’s not negligent free. He was violating Mass state law by not wearing seatbelt.

17 Sean Stocks 08.03.09 at 1:41 am

The real issue with this case is not so much that the lawyer seeks to sue everyone involved (there can be occassions when that might be appropriate), but that he has done so without any factual basis for doing so.

In both the UK and Australia (where I have practised variously as a solicitor and barrister) it would be conisdered professionaly negligent to file a pleading or issue proceedings without there being an evidential basis to support the allegations being made.

In this case: “Hughes said he is still awaiting the final accident reconstruction report and did not want to comment on exactly how he would show that Speliotis could have done something to avoid the accident. ” – from the same article quoted on this site.

Astonishing that an Attorney puprortedly seeking to further his client’s best interests would issue proceedings without first having enquired as to where those interests lay.

Loser pays guarantees that a lawyer would first check the grounds for a suit before exposing his or her client to a potential costs liability.

18 ps 08.03.09 at 3:24 am

The sad fact is that if Speliotis ends up with a boob for a lawyer, it doesn’t matter whether she was innocent or not, she will probably get nailed. In any event she will have to spend money on a lawyer just to make this thing go away so no matter what, she ends up losing. That’s her punishment for being at the wrong place at the wrong time and that’s how the justice system works. Hope that clears it up for you, Bob.

19 Cousin Dave 08.04.09 at 3:57 pm

So I understand how it works, but it’s the casual acceptance of same that bothers me. For those who jumped in to say “it’s the industry standard, don’t worry about it”: if any other industry excused wasteful and unjust practices by saying “it’s the industry standard”, you’d sue them.

20 CDR J 08.04.09 at 6:00 pm

Many years ago, my wife studied to be a paralegal (she never practiced). In one of her first courses, her professor proposed the following hypothetical case: You’re driving along, and you get into an accident with another car. You’re hurt, not seriously, but badly enough that you need to go to the hospital in an ambulance. The ambulance driver drives recklessly, and gets into another accident. Now you’re seriously hurt. When you get to the hospital, the doctor is drunk, and pokes your eye out with his thumb.
Question: Who do you sue?
Answer: everyone. The other driver, the ambulance driver, the doctor, and probably the ambulance service, the hospital, and who knows else. The courts will sort it out.

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