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Old February 20, 2002, 11:49 AM   #1
George Hill
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Drunk Driver's Widow suing Car Maker

http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/41939.htm

I know this isn't gun related - but its legal rights related and just goes to show the mentality of the US Justice System. Here is the text:
Quote:
February 20, 2002 -- ALBANY - The widow of a heavily drunken driver may not have only her husband to blame for the fatal accident - the state’s top court ruled yesterday she can sue Volkswagen over whether design problems contributed to his death.
After two lower courts dismissed the case, the state Court of Appeals ruled 6-1 that the Westchester woman can proceed with her lawsuit stemming from the 1995 crash.

Anti-drunken-driving advocates had hoped the court would bar legally intoxicated drivers access to courts to seek damages in crashes caused by their drunken driving.

In reinstating the lawsuit, Justice Richard Wesley wrote for the majority that widow Shauna Alami "does not seek to profit from her husband’s intoxication."

"She asks only that Volkswagen honor its . . . duty to produce a product that does not unreasonably enhance or aggravate a user’s injuries," Wesley wrote.

In a 10-page dissent, Justice Albert Rosenblatt said the ruling ignores past decisions and sets bad legal precedent for the future.

"The majority’s rationale . . . invites people injured as a result of their own seriously unlawful acts to blame others and recover damages previously prohibited," Rosenblatt wrote.

Silhadi Alami of Briarcliff Manor died after his ’89 Jetta jumped a curb at about 35 mph and smashed into a steel utility pole as he exited the Saw Mill River Parkway in Yonkers.

Toxicology tests determined he had about twice the legal amount of alcohol in his blood.

Shauna Alami said her husband’s injuries were more severe because the VW’s floorboard buckled during the collision and did not have sufficient "subframe reinforcement."

"I certainly don’t want to open the door to let people think it’s OK to drink and drive, but as a consumer, I certainly have a right to a safe product," said Alami.

VW lawyer David Hamm said the company will prove that Silhadi Alami’s death was solely the result of his drunken driving.
Please - Whatever you do, DO NOT tell this woman his woman her husband is dead because he was an idiot!
Drunk Drivers are #1 on my fecal roster. What morons. Now we have this. Oh, Please. Let's not blame the IDIOTS of what they do! It's Volkswagon's fault!
Hmm... I don't remember ever seeing a VW commercial where a man was shown behind the wheel with a 40 Ounce bottle of cheep beer. Anyone else?
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Old February 20, 2002, 11:56 AM   #2
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If I shoot myself in the head shouldnt I be able to sue. After all the gun should recognize that I am trying to shoot myself and deactivate the firing mechanism.:barf:
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Old February 20, 2002, 11:58 AM   #3
fix
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I'm working on a plan to sue myself for everything I own, file bankruptcy, and settle out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Next thing you know, we'll have mothers suing their children because of the pain and suffering they caused during childbirth.
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Old February 20, 2002, 12:09 PM   #4
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If that special place in hell gets full of people who pull stunts like this, is it still special?
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Old February 20, 2002, 12:42 PM   #5
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The majority of vehicle accidents involve intoxication. The booze and drugs get blamed. "If not for the booze, this person would have been a responsible car user."

The majority of suicide and violence involve intoxication. The guns get blamed. "If not for this gun, the drunkeness would not have turned deadly."

Seems as though someone has learned something from the anti-gun playbook.
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Old February 20, 2002, 12:42 PM   #6
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How many times have you been called crazy or "paranoid" or been accused of exaggeration because you compared gun lawsuits to people suing GM over drunk-driving and hit-and-run accidents?

I can think of ten times in my own life off the top of my head.
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Old February 20, 2002, 12:52 PM   #7
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But Don, a gun is made to kill, and a car is a perfectly safe device. Cars are tools for transportation, and guns are evil and murderous and oh, I can't bear to think of it any longer.

I fail to see why alcohol is a factor in this news bit, possibly the court action. The widow acknowledges her husband's drinking was a Bad Thing. What she fails to acknowledge is that when moving vehicle meets stationary object, bad things happen. Glass shatters. Metal bends. People get knocked around, sometimes fatally.
Apparently she feels the vehicle wasn't safe enough, because bits of it bent in ways that proved fatal to her husband. Well...uh...I'm not sure what to say about this; what is she hoping to gain? Money? Government legislation to protect her from cars that break in a crash? [color=#FF0000]█[/color][color=#FF0000]█[/color][color=#FF0000]█[/color].
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Old February 20, 2002, 12:58 PM   #8
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and let me tell you who to thank

The full credit for this idiocy will go to the following unholy alliances:

This is where the trial lawyers (plaintiff's bar), teacher's organizations, labor unions and some other border-line liberal groups have such powerful alliances.

They control the general assemblies of most states who in non-public election states.....appoint and elect the judiciary....so, when the general assembly appoints a judge, guess which way that individual's "arrow" points? Pro-business or pro-lawsuit? Hmmmmmmm

In the states that have public elections of the judiciary, guess who wins? Guess who gets the financial and campaign support of those groups aforementioned?

Hey guys, I ain't speculating on this......in my former life, I was the senior lobbyist for a trial lawyer organization....shameful days...but I had to have food and lodging...a job.

And my brother is a judge....so, don't call my hand on this one!
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Old February 20, 2002, 01:08 PM   #9
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Okay, so the thing that I'm noticing here is that TWO lower courts dismissed this lawsuit, yet this one overturned those decisions by a vote of 6-1. Why was the margin so convincing? Is there something going on in the court of appeals, here? Far be it from me to cry conspiracy or corruption, but anybody with a damn bit of common sense would have to see that this is a completely frivolous lawsuit.

If the car was made to the government mandated safety standards, who is really to blame here? Maybe she should sue whoever put the pole up for making it too sturdy. I'm thinking "Justice" Richard Wesley and the other 5 know very little about justice or common sense.

And one more thing:
"I certainly don’t want to open the door to let people think it’s OK to drink and drive, but as a consumer, I certainly have a right to a safe product," said Alami.

How unsafe is an '89 Jetta when you drive it in a completely sober state and don't hit a metal pole at 35 mph? Why does she think she has a right to a car that can take such abuse?

Rick
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Old February 20, 2002, 01:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
"I certainly don’t want to open the door to let people think it’s OK to drink and drive, but as a consumer, I certainly have a right to a safe product," said Alami.
LOL! Where does it end. :barf:

- Gabe
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Old February 20, 2002, 01:39 PM   #11
George Hill
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So, if a Drunk can get hurt driving a VW... that makes a VW unsafe?
Don't get me started on Kitchen Knives.
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Old February 20, 2002, 01:49 PM   #12
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Years ago one of the big-name jockeys from the 1950s, Eddie Arcaro comes to mind, but it could have been Shuemaker, was drunker than a skunk and rolled his Ford Explorer and severely injured himself.

He sued Ford, the bar where he was drinking, just about everyone else, blaming them for his own stupidity.

Can't remember for certain how it turned out, but I seem to recall that Ford settled out of court.
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Old February 20, 2002, 01:52 PM   #13
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A few years ago a kid in Denver died because he was hit by a car. He was sitting in the middle of a major highway late at night, naked and high on ecstacy. His family (and most of the kids in my high school) wanted to sue the driver of the car. I don't think that got very far....
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Old February 20, 2002, 01:53 PM   #14
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My Volkswagen is a very safe product, but i try to keep it operating within design parameters

It would be nice if VW made the door skins out of Kevlar, so i could drive the more interesting parts of DC with more safety, but
i don't want to pay for the upgrade.

If they made the floor stronger, then it would give somewhere else when the car ran into a fixed pole,
and it would weigh more, and burn more gas

Wait a minute, The CAFE standards of fleet fuel economy are to blame!!!! If VW was not forced by the Federal Government to meet EPA standards for the Car, then they could make them heavier like the old Chevy Belairs. No one ever died, driving drunk in one of those did they?

To me, the solution is the pillory for the Lawyer and the Client
Maybe a branding with the scarlet "I" as well
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Old February 20, 2002, 02:15 PM   #15
Mike Irwin
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Tell you what, DZ.

Just for you, I'll go crash the CAFE development computers, which are sitting in an office about 50 feet from me.
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Old February 20, 2002, 02:21 PM   #16
dZ
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if you crash them into a harddrive failure and you get electricuted while rooting about the innards with a screwdriver..

Can you sue Bill Gates?
i hear he has alot of money
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Old February 20, 2002, 03:09 PM   #17
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Quote:
Hmm... I don't remember ever seeing a VW commercial where a man was shown behind the wheel with a 40 Ounce bottle of cheep beer. Anyone else?
Actually, my new Passat has cupholders that could hold a 40. So this clearly speaks to the intent of VW that their cars be operated by drunks.



DJ
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Old February 20, 2002, 03:25 PM   #18
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Quote:
Maybe she should sue whoever put the pole up for making it too sturdy.

Don't think that can't happen. There's precedent in some states using breakaway poles on highways, just for this reason.

'Bout 20, 25 years ago in Dana Point, CA, a woman walked into a crosswalk against the red light, against a red Don't Walk sign, and got hit.


She COLLECTED from:
  • The driver. He didn't stop for her. She had the right of way as a pedestrian. (Don't get me started on THAT stupid idea!)
  • Ford. They made a car that couldn't stop in time. (35 m.p.h., the speed limit, and the car was about 10 feet from the cross walk when she asserted her right of way.)
  • The city. They put the Don't Walk sign and red light in the standard, normal place, which was too hard for her to see.
  • THe maker of the Don't Walk sign and stop light. The STANDARD Don't walk sign and red light. It was too hard for her to see.


Is it too soon to start hanging judges yet?


BTW, dz, Ralphy Nader beat you to it. He is convinced that CAFE is a killer.

Oh, the jockey was Shoemaker, soon after he retired. Suddenly too much time on his hands, maybe. Happened in San Dimas, CA. I know the exit. He sued the city and the state, too, over the design of the very normal exit. Don't remember for sure how it came out. Lost ALL respect for him, of course.
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Old February 20, 2002, 05:09 PM   #19
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I think this poor woman is overlooking another pocket to pick . Why not sue her mother in law for not giving birth to a tougher son ? A REAL MAN would have lived .
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Old February 20, 2002, 05:18 PM   #20
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I hope Ted Kennedy doesn't get wind of this because he's liable to sue the maker of the car he was driving for failing to provide adequate floatation devices.
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Old February 20, 2002, 07:26 PM   #21
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Deja Vu all over again

I could have sworn I already posted on this subject, but....

"I'm working on a plan to sue myself for everything I own, file bankruptcy, and settle out of court for an undisclosed sum."

Tee hee - me, too.

Actually, you would not be able to sue if you shoot yourself in the head (nor could your relatives), because the product (the gun) is not "unreasonably dangerous". That is the key phrase upon which liability turns, and weighs a calculus of factors including the actual danger presented, the potential danger presented, the feasibility of implementing features into the product that might prevent the harm, and the additional cost which would be added to the product were those features implemented, and the liklihood that the implemented features would prevent harm, and specifically, would they have prevented the harm in question (causation). In the case of a gun, the gun is certainly dangerous. No question about that. But it is NOT unreasonably dangerous, notwithstanding its highly dangerous nature, because it is REASONABLE to make it dangerous for its intended purpose (self-defense, sporting purpose, militia membership). If you take away the dangerousness to which the user is subjected by either intentional misuse (by either the plaintiff or a third party) OR negligent misuse, then the gun cannot serve its intended purpose - it would be useless. Hence guns are very rarely found to be unreasonably dangerous. However, contrast this with vehicles. Vehicles should never be dangerous, ideally, under any circumstances, if this were possible, in order to serve their intended purpose (gettin people around town). Of course, they are in fact highly dangerous as it turns out, notwithstanding the efforts of manufacturers (either voluntary or in compliance with federal safety regs) and traffic control engineers and street/highway designers. BUT, most states, if not all, through their common law, DO IN FACT impose a duty on manufacturers, to NOT make an "unreasonably unsafe" product; in the case in question, a vehicle. This is a judgment call for the jury to make based on all the facts and circumstances and the values of the jurors, much like a negligence decision, but with a lower thresshold than negligence in finding liability (in fact, the law refers to this calculus/doctrine as "strict product liability", when in fact that is not what it is). In any event, the widow should be allowed to GET HER DAY IN COURT to let a jury of her peers decide whether the vehicle was unreasonably dangerous, and not be cut off from her jury trial right at the lower court level, IMO. Now, having said that, there is no way in hell she should recover, if I were on the jury, because that's the value system I would impose as a juror. I don't think a jury anywhere will buy it, and so the system will ultimately work as it should. But, consider for a moment that IF it could be shown that the car was designed "unreasonably dangerous", and IF it could be shown that this drunk would have been a cripple and lived, and not dead if the floorboard would not have buckled or whatever....well, there is something fundamentally unsavory about a damage award for that, because it seems to reward the guy for being a dumbass drunk driver, right? But I believe the law would say that if the car was unsafe (unreasonably dangerous) and contributed to his death, notwithstanding the fact this his own criminal behaviour caused the accident in the first place, a damage award IS proper in order to punish the defendant manufacturer, in order to cause them to make a safer product, so that the next, innocent, potential plaintiff involved in a wreck not of her making, will have her injuries minimized by not having a caving floorboard. Do you see the logic? The whole point is to affect the behavior of product makers, to protect the public safety. Doesn't seem right or fair, but the idea is to protect the remaining public from FUTURE harm, and the incidental unseemly effect is to reward the family of the drunk criminal. Are there any PI litigation attorneys here who can tell me whether the doctrine of "superceding, interving cause" would apply here? IIRC, that only applies in negligence, not products liability. Also, in negligence cases, one must show that the negligence (or here, unsafe product) is both a "but-for" cause AND a proximate cause. Assuming the car is unreasonably dangerous (which is quite difficult to prove in the first place), I believe on need only show "but-for" causation and not proximate causation in coming to a conclusion as a juror that the product was "unreasonably unsafe". Here, the unsafeness, if present, could potentially be shown to have exacerbated his injuries, so it is in fact a "but-for" cause of his death in that scenario. So if "proximate cause" is not applied, then she may in fact be able to recover, if an unsafe product is found. Obviously, the "proximate cause" of the wreck is his drunk driving, and not the allegedly unsafe vehicle, so there would be no case in a negligence scenario. But here, as unpleasant as it seems, this is probably the correct legal result.

Guys, allow me on my soapbox for a moment. I find it hard to believe that those who would protect gun rights would be so violently opposed to our jury trial rights, mostly in other threads. Lookit, the only remaining, small tidbits of power that WE, the citizens of the country, have left, lies in 2 things:

1. The fact that we are generally ARMED as a nation; and
2. The right to seek a jury trial for redress of greivances.

Guys, without these two, we are POWERLESS to keep the Microsofts and Bill Clintons of the world from absolutely reducing us to peasants/slaves working for them for a pittance. The other two "boxes", ballot and soap, only have limited effect (the rights to vote and speak our minds have been greatly diluted in the information age, where only big money buys voice and access to politicians). So, IMO, only the "jury" and "cartridge" boxes have any real power to keep the potential tyrants in line in the long run.

The point is, LET THE JURY DECIDE. If I was on a jury, I would throw her ass out of court. But the day you start nipping in the bud, before trial, the rights of plaintiffs to let a jury of their peers hear their story live and make a decision - the day you strip that power from the jury - the people - that's the day the politicians and Bill Gates of the world start grinning from ear to ear, because they know they will fill that power vacuum. Let the jury decide. Have faith in your fellow man. Aren't gunnies always saying we trust our fellow men to own guns? Why not trust them to make the right decision on a jury? They usually do! That's why so-called "tort reform" is so insidious. The day you start going down the path of limiting damage awards to X amount regardless of the egregious conduct of the corporation/whatever, then the camel's nose is under the tent, and in a few years, corporate lawyers will laugh in the face of plaintiffs threatening to bring suit when their comanies pollute or defraud or maim or kill through their negligence or whatever. Eventually, that's a slippery slope leading to carte blanche for the captains of industry to run roughshod over consumers and the public safety, when you start limiting damage award amounts. Appellate courts do a very good job of reducing awards to reasonable amounts - no need for nazi legislation on the subject.

Look, this is not much different than gun rights. All the anti-gunners are continuously saying stuff like "if you've got nothing to hide; if you're a law abiding gun owner, then why on earth do you object to a background check and gun registration? What harm could it do?" or "How can you possibly object to training requirements to own a gun?" The answer, of course, is that you cannot put a prior restraint on fundamental rights, like speech or the RKBA. Bascically, the same principle applies here - you cannot take away a person's 7th amendment jury trial right before the fact - before trial - that's an infringement of a fundamental right (unless the rules for summary judgment are clearly met). Now, this case is no poster case for jury trial rights, but I'm sick and tired of hearing the comments of those who allege to support freedom, be so quick to condemn the aggreived before they get their day in court. Let the jury throw her out on her ears. Not some lower court judge who heard the slick corporate lawyer's fancy arguments at summary judgment hearing. Someone said maybe the high court was paid off. Hmmm, well, maybe the 2 lower courts were greased by the defendant, but the high court was uncorruptible. Sure is more likely that the defendant's attorneys would have relationships with the lower court judges than the high court.

Would you trust YOURSELF to be on a jury and make a good decision? Then why wouldn't you trust your fellow man? Maybe then they shouldn't own guns either - only you (that's the DiFi theory of self-defense). Anyway, again, not the best example of the importance of jury trial rights, but I wanted to mention it. IMO, the 7th Am is equally important to the 1st and 2nd (the second being "first among equals"). Please keep an open mind on the subject accordingly...

Last edited by Futo Inu; February 23, 2002 at 11:53 AM.
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Old February 20, 2002, 07:31 PM   #22
WyldOne
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Okay I didn't understand this part:

Quote:
In reinstating the lawsuit, Justice Richard Wesley wrote for the majority that widow Shauna Alami "does not seek to profit from her husband’s intoxication."
She doesn't? Then what's she doin'?
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Old February 20, 2002, 07:45 PM   #23
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I have one word for this stupidity...

PUHLEEEEZE............

what a steaming, mal-odorous pile of droppings this is!
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Old February 20, 2002, 08:03 PM   #24
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Quote:
Appellate courts do a very good job of reducing awards to reasonable amounts - no need for nazi legislation on the subject.

IIRC, in the "McDonald's hot coffee in the lap" case, the judge reduced the $10 million award to a pittance.


Good points, Futo.
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Old February 20, 2002, 08:19 PM   #25
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I got drunk and hit my head on the bathtub as I lost concious control of my body and fell in. Can I sue the contractor that built the house?
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