In the arena of personal injury law, there is sometimes no story that is too farfetched or too outlandish to fail to warrant monetary damages to a victim and his or her family. However, the justice system does not arbitrarily make determinations based purely on circumstance. There are several distinct requirements provided by civil law that must be met if a potentially negligent party is to forfeit damages to another.
First, and perhaps most importantly, there must be actual physical harm suffered by the plaintiff. If it cannot be proven by some introduction of evidence, then there is no cause of action and the lawsuit will fail. Secondly, if injury is suffered by the plaintiff, it must be shown that the defendant’s action or inaction was the actual or proximate cause. If the causal link cannot be established between the defendant’s actions and the harm, then the plaintiff will lose.
Lastly, a negligence claim is based upon a theory of duty. In the legal context, the term “duty” is loosely meant to signify that the defendant owed something to the plaintiff, whether it be driving safely on the public roads or cleaning ice from their front steps. The standard of duty is what a reasonable person would have done (or not done) under the given set of circumstances.
On May 4, 2012, 32-year-old Jason Marion was bar hopping in West Ashley, South Carolina. According to the Post and Courier, it was about 1:20 am in the morning when Marion decided to drive home. At the time, he was intoxicated. He had been drinking at local bars for nearly seven hours, and had been to five different establishments.
As Marion was driving home early that morning, he struck a bicyclist on the side of the road. Gerard Nieto, the bicyclist, was thrown from his bike and hit the pavement hard. But that was not the end of the terrible accident. Marion, still oblivious to what he had just done, continued to drive on. He dragged Nieto’s unconscious body a quarter of a mile before he stopped. Once Nieto’s lifeless body was free, Marion drove home. Several days later, Marion turned himself in to the police. He was charged with reckless homicide and driving under the influence.
Neito died in the tragic bike crash. His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Marion and the five restaurants who over-served him that night. The family settled the case for $1.75 million. They were represented by Attorney Sandy Senn.