Indifferent Drunk Drivers Lead to Deaths, Criminal and Civil Lawsuits
Two Florida drunk driving cases have recently made national news. Although the cases both concern criminal lawsuits– and texts that demonstrate a callous indifference to driving safety– the cases also demonstrate how criminal and civil lawsuits interact. Although the criminal suits against the drunk drivers proceed, major civil suits are still pending.
Woman Tweets “2 Drunk 2 Care,” Kills Girls; Employer Also Sued
Two years ago, a 20-year-old Florida woman drank two jumbo margaritas, got into a car, drove it down the wrong side of an expressway, and killed two young women. This tragic occurrence garnered national attention, however, when it was revealed that the woman tweeted just hours before the crash “2 drunk 2 care.” Despite being underage, her blood alcohol content at the time was twice the legal limit. Her indifference led prosecutors to slam the woman with 24 years in prison, just a few years short of the maximum, and ban her from driving forever.
The now-22-year-old woman’s courtroom history is not over. A civil lawsuit against her is still pending, which may result in her paying to compensate her victims’ families for their wrongful deaths. The lawsuit also demands that the woman’s employer, a mobile phone store, pay their share of damages to the families of the deceased victims. The employer threw the work party where the woman had purchased $65 in alcohol, despite being underage. Because the criminal lawsuit recently ended, the civil lawsuit can now proceed without concerns about the woman having to waive her right against self-incrimination.
Girl Texts “Drunk Driving Woo,” Kills Passenger; Rental Car Company Also Sued
In another eerily similar case, a Florida criminal investigation revealed a series of texts from another Florida girl just minutes before another drunk-driving fatality. According to recently released evidence, the girl texted “drunk driving woo” and “I’ll be dead thanks to you” to her boyfriend, with whom she was fighting. Despite the texts, she did not die in the ensuing crash– but her passenger, another 22-year-old, was killed when she T-boned a truck. The girls’ blood alcohol content was also more than twice the legal limit.
Her criminal suit has not concluded, and in fact, she has pleaded “not guilty” to DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. While she continues to fight the government about her criminal sentence, her impending battle against the parents of the woman she killed is pending. The civil suit, like the above suit, also includes another defendant: the rental car company from which she rented the car. As a member of the car-sharing service, she was permitted to select any of the company’s vehicles and use it to drive. Although the terms and conditions specify that she must agree not to use the vehicles while intoxicated, nothing prevented her from using the rental vehicle. Although the ride-sharing company hopes to defend itself with the same limited-liability protections that traditional rental companies have, the lawsuit points out that it could have easily installed inexpensive inebriation detectors that would have prevented operation of the vehicle.
Both of the above cases demonstrate that justice can be found in more than just criminal lawsuits. Even when a criminal lawsuit is completed, a devastated family may not be compensated for their traumatic loss. Further, the driver may not be the only responsible party, and a civil suit can help pinpoint all potential responsible parties. Contact Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Newmark to learn about your options.