Frivolous lawsuits aren’t always the result of suits being filed, but often times are due to the defense of claims and it isn’t just in civil cases. This is a long blog and I apologize but I think the background is important. Let me start today and go back (with jumps around as I am prone to do).
I have experienced this personally as an attorney in cases. One happened when a driver was passing when unsafe hits a car head on and kills the other driver. The Defendant denies it was his fault and makes the family file a lawsuit to recover their damages. Jump ahead to trial and jury returns a judgment against the driver and company and they appeal – so the case continues. Did the Defendant have a right to deny the claim and force the family to go through a long trial and now appeal when all the evidence was that he caused the wreck? Sure. Should he have done so and put the family through the additional pain of a trial is the real question.
I have now experienced it on a personal level as well in a criminal (really just traffic tickets) case as set out below. The question again is just because you can deny and defend a claim should you? Just because you have a right does not mean you do not have choice not to exercise that right to prevent more harm.
Today I was supposed to be in Maryland to attend a traffic ticket trial. The trial was related to the woman who hit and killed my sister in law on August 21, 2013. Trish’s daughter Morgan started a petition at https://change.org/petitions/richard-a-simmons-whitney-decesaris-reconsider-contesting-whitney-decesaris-traffic-citations requesting the Driver and her attorney reconsider contesting the traffic tickets she was issued. I signed it and posted it on Facebook and within a couple of days it disappeared from my Facebook account as well as others who had posted it. Not sure why.
Here is a little background on the case. Trish was hit and killed while riding her bike outside Annapolis Maryland. She was wearing all appropriate safety equipment riding on the right hand side of the road. She was hit from behind in a no passing zone on a road with a gradual incline with a clear line of sight of almost ¼ mile. There is a lot more evidence regarding the actions (or lack of action) of the driver which need not be addressed here. The State’s attorney chose to send the case (a misdemeanor) to a Grand Jury rather than charge her. As you may know the only one presenting evidence and choosing what evidence and witnesses to present (or not present) to the Grand Jury is the State’s Attorney. The Grand Jury decided that the Driver would be issued 4 tickets. The family thought that would be the end of the story and she would pay the tickets. The Driver’s last name is Decesaris which meant nothing to me until I realized it is also the name on a Cancer Research Building and Foundation for Cancer Research. As I understand they are great charities and ironically on July 1st 2013 their dpcancerfoundation.org website had news of a Davidsonville cyclist going 1,500 miles “through the winding country roads” to raise money for cancer research. So about 50 days before Mrs. Decesaris strikes and kills a biker, the foundation that bears her family name is proud of a biker who generated money for their foundation by riding the roads. Irony is alive and well. If you are riding to benefit the foundation it is great. If you are riding not to benefit us – you shouldn’t be on the road at least if you are hit and killed by one of our family members.
The internet is an amazing thing where people can post all kinds of “information” and “facts”. The how’s and why’s of the crash that killed Trish will be debated and discussed forever because some people believe bikes should never be on any road and if they are it’s their own fault, despite the law. Some comments made on various websites and blogs have stated this in much more direct terms such as bikers deserve what they get if they choose to ride on roads. So we have a group of people who have some people who have decided that that law doesn’t apply to them as it relates to protecting bikers, but strongly support the law that allows them to defend themselves when the hit someone on a bike.
The petition is requesting the Defendant in the case to consider just paying the tickets without causing the family even more harm – just because you can. To those who will respond with it is everyone’s right to contest a claim or charge you are correct. But those people I ask are you going to defend everyone who brings a lawsuit no matter how stupid you think it is and argue that they should have their day in Court? A lawyer is not a bus. As a lawyer you do not have to take every case that comes in your door, nor should you. Just because you can defend a person doesn’t mean you have to and part of having a right is the ability to choose not to exercise it just because you can.
If the driver in my sister-in-laws case chooses to continue to fight the tickets – I will defend her right to do so but I will not defend her choice to do so.
If you would consider signing the petition I would appreciate it. If you have comments, let me hear them.