N.M.: “Driver who killed 2 sisters suing restaurants, friend”

by Walter Olson on March 11, 2013

“A repeat drunken driver convicted in a crash that killed two teenagers has sued his drinking buddy and two Santa Fe restaurants that served him alcohol.” James Ruiz, who has since been convicted and incarcerated, “was out on bond on his fifth DWI arrest” when he slammed into the car of the teens’ family. [AP/WHEC; Albuquerque Journal, with headline above; UPI]

{ 10 comments }

1 Ed 03.11.13 at 11:40 am

When I served with the Army in Germany, my wife and I lived with a German-American couple. The husband was picked up DWI twice, The first time he had to pay a $1000 dollar (US equivalent) fine and lost his license for a year. The second time he lost it for good; he couldn’t even use a moped. He was told if there was a third time he would go to jail for a very long time. We need to get serious about repeat offenders.

2 steve mansfield 03.11.13 at 6:13 pm

While most states do have “dram shop” laws which allow victims (or their estates) of drunk drivers to sue commercial establishments like bars for their injuries, the idea that the drunk himself has standing to sue on his own behalf is ridiculous. After all, the drunk driver was engaged in a crime, DWI, when he got injured and the traditional rule is that you cannot sue if injured while committing a crime. What’s next? A bankrobber suing the guard for shooting him during an armed robbery?

3 wfjag 03.11.13 at 6:59 pm

@steve mansfield :
One can only hope that the estates of the 2 dead girls have sued Ruiz, and state law recognizes a pre-judgment lien against any recovery or settlement he may obtain, so that if he gets anything, even before attorneys fees and costs, the estates take the money.

If NM has eliminated joint and several liability, so that each DEF can only be held liable for his/her/its pro rata fault, this could be the only way the estates could collect from Ruiz. Otherwise, his assets are likely limited to his toothbrush and his soap on a rope.

4 JohnG911 03.12.13 at 8:05 am

This isn’t about drunk driving, its about people’s innate stupidity and lack of responsibility made possible by a legal system run by lawyers for the sole benefit of lawyers.

5 Walter Olson 03.12.13 at 11:34 am

In this case, however, it should be noted (h/t Max K.) that the plaintiff was filing pro se without a lawyer.

6 Jane 03.14.13 at 11:47 am

This whackjob who stole a car from my dad via a $13,000 bad check is now suing my dad claiming my dad reneged on an agreement to loan him the car for two weeks in exchange for holding onto a check my father allegedly knew was bad (all b.s.). Too much free time in prison.

7 Melvin H. 03.15.13 at 4:39 am

More like not enough free time in prison, the whackjob should still be there, and unable to sue you or your father.

8 Bob Lipton 03.15.13 at 8:59 am

I understand the plaintiff is filing pro se, Walter. Are the restaurant and friend (soon to be ex-friend, I should imagine) also representing themselves, or is a lawyer sticking his snout in the trough for them?

Bob

9 Ron Miller 03.15.13 at 11:43 am

What is the point of this exactly? Everyone sees this case exactly the same way. Is anyone proposing any reform of any kind that would not let this guy bring his goofy jailhouse suit? This guy is doing a bad thing filing this case. But it pales – absolutely pales – in comparison to the original crime.

I think these kinds of things are used as a proxy to attack the civil justice system even though everyone agrees that the system works… well the system actually works awfully, here. But there is no better way to handle these claims unless we are going to start tacking on jail time for filing dumb lawsuits. I don’t think anyone has the stomach for that. So I don’t see how this story further any purpose of this blog.

Steve, there is no law that someone can’t sue. Anyone can sue. I mean, I can sue you because I don’t like your blog comment. The question is whether the suit can be maintained. This case will go once the defendants file a motion for summary judgment. They can probably get costs against the plaintiff but, practically, that is doing nothing for you against a likely indigent plaintiff.

10 Ron Miller 03.15.13 at 11:49 am

Ed, I agree we have to get serious about repeat offenders. There are some drunk drivers out there that are just otherwise really nice people. Society has to set that aside and punish these people harshly. It really is, in my opinion, the only weapon we have left that will substantially make a difference in the drunk driving fatalities in this country.

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