Drunk driver leads cops on high-speed chase; 21 local residents sued

by Walter Olson on February 11, 2013

Great moments in blame-shifting: In Dade City, Fla., an ex-con with cocaine and other drugs in his system tried to outrun the cops in a high speed chase, then veered into a farm neighborhood where he smashed his car into two trees on a one-lane dead-end private road, instantly killing himself and a passenger. Now the estate of his passenger (who was also on drugs) is suing 21 local residents who jointly maintain the private road, saying they should have kept it clear of trees and did not provide adequate signage. “There were no apparent visual roadway obstructions or environmental factors that would have contributed to this crash,” a report from the Florida Highway Patrol stated at the time. [Tampa Bay Times](& Alkon)

{ 11 comments }

1 HFB 02.11.13 at 2:50 pm

Can lawyers fees be paid by the plaintiff or attorney if the defendants win? Seems like that’s what is needed here but I just don’t know if there is anything protecting the neighbors.

2 No Name Guy 02.11.13 at 4:00 pm

HFB – what we really need is the ability of defendants who prevail in cases like this to get 10 minutes to horse whip the attorneys who filed the abomination of a suit. Some how I suspect that would reduce the frequency of such actions to only the lunatic pro se plaintiffs. [wakes up from dream] Oh…..drat. OK, now that I’m awake – loser pays takes care of this trash suit.

3 Jerome Bigge 02.11.13 at 6:57 pm

You’re probably thinking of “loser pays”. Which is opposed by the legal profession here in the USA. (might cut into their incomes)

4 Ben Catoe 02.11.13 at 9:24 pm

There needs to be a law that states that you cannot sue someone for any injury/damage caused to yourself while in the commission of a crime. There is no way that I should be able to sue a homeowner for cuts I received while breaking his window, nor sue a car owner for a wreck I had while stealing his car.

Also, the 21 residents should counter sue for damages caused by the perps for driving on their private road and sue the lawyer for their costs associated with this stupid suit along with “pain and suffering” for having to deal with it.

The lawyer should be censored and fined.

5 ras 02.12.13 at 12:18 am

if a lawyer were working on, say, a 30pct commission basis, wld he be liable for the same pct under loser-pays? he shld be.

6 Juanito 02.12.13 at 1:32 am

So how far away is this from where David Belniak killed those people?

(He is now suing the estate of the people that he hit while he was driving drunk.)

7 captnhal 02.12.13 at 8:29 am

In most of these cases it seems to boil down to not taking responsibility for one’s own actions and looking for deep pockets. In this case the plaintiff’s side is claiming that it was someone else’s responsibility for having done what no other had done. It was the tree’s owner’s fault.

8 RogerX 02.12.13 at 10:03 am

@Ben – Define “a crime.” Parameterize “caused by you.”

The complexities of those two questions alone much such a law much more a nuisance than a benefit.

9 boblipton 02.12.13 at 10:26 am

Sounds like the people bringing the suit and their lawyer are on drugs.

Bob

10 Ben Catoe 02.12.13 at 1:52 pm

@Roger,
I’m not a lawyer so I was not intending that to be the actual language, but you make a very good point.

I’d say that in this specific case DUI at excessive speeds (=crime) down a very small road and hitting a tree (=caused by you). The plaintiff might be able to sue the driver’s estate (likely nothing to gain) but since the passenger was a partner in the crimes they were committing they should be jointly responsible. Unless they can show where the tree jumped in front of them they have no case.

If more general terms it would need to read something like “…while in the commission of a crime you assume all risks incurred…”. This would be intended to cover things like suing over a dog bite or drowning in a pool after climbing a fence (trespassing). I suppose it might be worded to apply differently to felonies vs misdemeanors.

I hereby award them both well deserved Darwin Awards.

11 marco73 02.12.13 at 6:24 pm

The deceased, Sheila Julien, can only win an honorable mention for a Darwin Award. Apparently she had at least 1 child.

The daughter of the deceased was unable to attend a court hearing, because she is in jail for parole violations stemming from a drug charge and assaulting a police officer.

We don’t call it Flor-i-DUH for nothing.

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