A Florida man convicted of killing three people while driving under the influence of alcohol is now suing the deceased for his own pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, and the medical bills he incurred as a result of a crash he pleaded guilty to causing.
First, let me start off by saying that I can't imagine any sane lawyer would pursue this case. I find the suit meritless for the reasons I will discuss below. Further, it contributes to the distain that people who don't truly understand what I do already have for "drunk driving lawyers." I hope that people who read this article understand the only reason Attorney Tuomey took on this case is that the convict is her brother, David Belniak.
Without even addressing the moral issue of insensitivity (putting it mildly), I find two major legal problems with this lawsuit. First, Belniak pleaded guilty to three counts of DUI-Mansalughter; one count for each deceased person he is now suing. Under Florida law, a person is guilty of DUI-Manslaughter if while driving under the influence of alcohol he causes the death of another as a result of said driving under the influence. Thus, he admitted, under oath, that he caused the three deaths. End of discussion. This is called issue preclusion. He admitted that his operation while under the influence directly caused the three deaths, and the court determined beyond a reasonable doubt that to be the case, so he is now precluded from arguing in a civil hearing that the deceased more likely than not (the civil standard of proof) was in fact the cause, rather than him. Even if he wanted to argue that the other driver's negligence was a contributing factor, his admission that he caused 3 deaths because of his drunk driving cannot be re-litigated.
Even if Belniak could argue that one of the deceased caused the accident, the damages that he is suing for are superfluous, weak, and desperate. In order to collect for his "injuries," Belniak must show that a reasonable person should have foreseen that his/her negligent driving would lead to a car accident, the result of which would leave him/her dead, law enforecement would then find evidence that Belniak was drunk so as to charge him with DUI-Manslaughter, the result of which would land him a lengthy jail sentence, causing him "injuries" such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of capacity to enjoy life. Belniak must show that all of these claimed damages were reasonably foreseeable consequences of the dead person's traffic violation. Good luck.
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