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Should this lawsuit allowed?

  1. Jan 18, 2012 #1
    I guess I can't call this lawsuit frivolous unless declared so by the presiding judge, but if any lawsuit could be called seriously frivolous, it's this one.

    http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blog...laughter-sues-victim-130753893--abc-news.html

    I know there are similar cases of convicted criminals suing their victim(s), but usually there is some kind of theory of "justification" no matter how fanciful or outrageous. A while back, I posted an article about someone who filed a lawsuit where the defendant was accused of molesting the plaintiff "in his dreams". Here, as far as I can tell, there is no viable theory of justification given the evidence that was presented in the trial and the confession by the accused.

    I believe this case should be summarily dismissed and the plaintiff's attorney be disciplined up to and including possible disbarment. Comments?
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2012
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  3. Jan 18, 2012 #2

    lisab

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    What a mess. I'm sure it will be dismissed. The article says it could backfire by pissing off the jury - I suspect that is almost certainly what will happen.
     
  4. Jan 18, 2012 #3

    Moonbear

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    I think he needs a better attorney than his sister. If he wanted to claim he wasn't responsible for the accident, he shouldn't have plead guilty. This would only make sense if he plead innocent and was still denying blame.
     
  5. Jan 18, 2012 #4
    Exactly. He probably can't find anyone else to take the case, and his sister is risking her career to "help" her brother IMO.
     
  6. Jan 18, 2012 #5

    D H

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    He had a blood alcohol level of 0.045 (less than the legal limit) BUT he tested positive for Xanax and cocaine. He was indeed driving under the influence when he ran into a car stopped at a red light. Electronics in the car that he hit indicated the car was stationary when he hit it. His speed: 70-90 mph. Speed limit: 55.

    It's one thing for lawyers to defend people charged with crimes or served with a complaint. Everyone deserves a defense. It's quite another to abet a frivolous and injurious charge. His sister needs to be disbarred. In my opinion, of course.
     
  7. Jan 19, 2012 #6
    Their claim, on its face, is plausible. If you are driving under the influence pretty much any accident you get into is going to be blamed on you and you will be prosecuted for it unless it can be proved that you were absolutely not at fault. If you try to plead a case before a jury you are almost certain to spend a lot of time in jail. Most people already tend to think that if you drive under the influence at all you should be punished well beyond what the law generally allows. Add to that alleged victims and death and most people will want you hanged.

    The evidence in this case though would seem to suggest that he is grasping at straws. He has nothing better to do while in prison contemplating how his life has been ruined other than scheming to make it better by suing someone. His sister may actually believe him and think he was railroaded. That would be one of the reasons lawyers really oughtn't represent anyone they have a personal relationship with.

    I don't think that a civil case can be thrown out based on him having plead guilty in a criminal case. I do believe it can be thrown out if they fail to show an ability to provide any evidence for their case.
     
  8. Jan 19, 2012 #7
    Yes. He can claim that he was coerced into a confession. That's always a legal option for someone who pleads guilty to a crime. But merely asserting this is not enough. In this case, his plea is quite rational given the evidence. There was a plea bargain and his 12 year sentence could well have been more severe for causing three deaths.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...-deceased-victim-mental-anguish-injuries.html
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2012
  9. Jan 19, 2012 #8
    Civil and Criminal courts are separate. Belniak can be criminally responsible (driving under the influence, speeding, reckless endangerment, ect) and required to serve time in jail but may not be wholly liable civilly. So his conviction and plea of guilt are not necessarily relevant to his ability to sue though they can certainly be used against him in court. The minimum necessary for him to file suit, as far as I am aware, is a legitimate assertion of an ability to provide evidence for his claim. Technically he may not even have to actually provide evidence before going to court though I doubt a judge will allow it. He can theoretically say that he can obtain evidence by subpena of the witnesses and questioning them which I believe is technically a feasible "out" for providing evidence since his plea bargain preempted trial and none of these witnesses have made testimony to a court nor has he had the opportunity to cross examine them. Again, I doubt a judge would accept that but I believe it is technically possible.

    I took a walk and thought about it before posting. According to the article in the OP the families of the victims are filing suit against Belniak. Though it does not say I assume it is a wrongful death suit which, considering the circumstances, is quite likely to draw millions in damages out of a jury. From the looks of it this suit of Belniak's would seem tactical. If he can get the court/jury to apportion liability, saying that the victim was partially liable for the damages, it could mitigate the damages awarded against him.
     
  10. Jan 19, 2012 #9

    Chi Meson

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    Clearly, if one is that intoxicated, a stopped car could appear to be shifting lanes suddenly... .

    My opinion: this guy has forfeited his right to be in society, but wrongful death suits can go over the top. If this countersuit is intended to mitigate the circumstances, I'm thinking it's going to backfire.

    I'm putting myself in the jury here, in an attempt to be non-emotional (and also without hearing all evidence), I would consider this guy to not yet comprehend the scope of the damage caused entirely by his chosen actions.
     
  11. Jan 19, 2012 #10
    But his lawsuit is based on the assertion that the victim caused the crash by abruptly changing lanes. There were 6 eyewitnesses who stated that the victim's car was stopped at a traffic light at the time of the collision and the event data recorder in the victim's vehicle showed it was not moving at the time of impact. I understand that Belniak wants to apportion responsibility for the crash, but this doesn't seem to have any chance of working. Why doesn't he sue the manufacturer of the tires or something like that?
     
  12. Jan 19, 2012 #11
    I think that he realizes that he is completely screwed and is angry. I can not imagine any person properly ashamed of themselves filing a suit like this. He is perhaps angry and lashing out in what ever small ways he can in an attempt to injure the victims' families and take some of the burden and blame off of himself. There is not much else for him to do but realize that his life as he knew it is more or less over and that the ridicule and humiliation has only begun.
     
  13. Jan 19, 2012 #12

    D H

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    Or Robert Zemeckis. He was going 88 mph when he hit the car. Why didn't the time machine kick in?
     
  14. Jan 19, 2012 #13
    Why would he wait this long to change his tone and sue the victim? It happened in 2007!
     
  15. Jan 19, 2012 #14
    I think he was just sentenced, following a guilty plea, in August, 2011 (from the second posted link, post 7), but I'm not sure. The accident occurred on Dec 25, 2007.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2012
  16. Jan 19, 2012 #15
    It took him that long (till Aug 2011) to say he's guilty? Why the sudden change of heart? Could have easily said not-guilty between Dec 2007 and August 2011.
     
  17. Jan 19, 2012 #16

    Moonbear

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    This may also be why his sister is representing him...she might not even want to and may know it's pointless, but has mom or dad breathing down her neck to help her idiot brother because nobody else will take his case.

    Then again, never underestimate the stupidity of juries.
     
  18. Jan 19, 2012 #17
    It's normal to plead not guilty at arraignment. After that he may have been free on bail pending trial. As the trial date approached (there may have been a number of delays) a plea bargain was apparently accepted whereby he pleaded guilty and waived a trial. The overburdened criminal justice system in the US works very slowly with the accused having many options. Still, like you, I have no idea why it took so long given the evidence.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2012
  19. Jan 20, 2012 #18
    Disbarment is a bit much in my opinion. Although she is taking on a big risk to her future career as an attorney.
     
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