2 Drunk Driving Accidents- 18 Years Apart Causing Death / Injury & Disparate Responses

Massachusetts Drunk Driver Two cases, nearly 20 years apart,  and two very different responses by criminal perpetrators of drunk driving motor vehicle accidents involving injury or death. One man recently, in 2013, took responsibility / accountability and showed remorse.  Another man in Massachusetts, almost twenty years earlier, attempts to duck responsibility while litigating technicalities.

In September  2013, Matthew Cordle confessed to drunk driving death resulting as a result of a fatal auto accident in which Mr. Cordle hit and killed a man. Mr. Cordle took full responsibility for the mishap by confessing online and pleading guilty. Mr. Cordle had spent the night binge drinking and was so drunk that he blacked out prior to the deadly crash. . http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/18/matthew-cordle_n_3945316.html

This admission and guilty plea does not excuse him or make him any less culpable but it certainly should act as a mitigating circumstance as far as his penalty is concerned.

On Juy 21st, 1995 Paul Powers was drinking beers at a cookout.  After leaving the party, Paul powers’   “truck veered into the opposite lane of traffic, struck a motorcycle carrying a driver and a passenger, and then hit another vehicle. As a result, the defendant and three other individuals sustained serious bodily injuries. The defendant was taken to a hospital immediately after the accident.” At the scene of the crash there were beer cans on the road as well as in his truck.  Powers v. Commonwealth, 426 Mass. 534 – Mass: Supreme Judicial Court 1998 

According to the cops, alcohol consumption contributed to the truck- Bike crash Id. For whatever reason, Mr. Powers was questioned without any blood test by the police.

Nonetheless the nurses and doctors at the hospital extracted blood as part of his medical treatment. The Registry of Motor Vehicles in Massachusetts suspended his license asserting he was “an immediate threat to public safety” Powers v. Commonwealth, 426 Mass. 534 – Mass: Supreme Judicial Court 1998

“On October 18, 1995, a grand jury returned three indictments charging violation of G. L. c. 90, § 24L (1) (operating recklessly causing serious bodily injury while driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor); three indictments charging violation of G. L. c. 90, § 24L (2) (operation while under the influence of intoxicating liquor causing serious bodily injury); one indictment charging violation of G. L. c. 90, § 24 (1) (operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor); one indictment charging violation of G. L. c. 90, § 24 (2) (a) (driving negligently so as to endanger); and one indictment charging violation of G. L. c. 85, § 2 (failing to drive safely within lane of traffic)   Powers v. Commonwealth, 426 Mass. 534 – Mass: Supreme Judicial Court 1998

Instead of admitting to his crime and taking accountability, Mr. Powers for his part, asserted the defense of double jeopardy and decided to litigate

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Norfolk- rejected his arguments reasoning that “The defendant offers nothing to demonstrate that the statute is clearly punitive, much less “the clearest proof” that would lead us to conclude that a license revocation is “so punitive in form and effect as to render [it] criminal despite [the Legislature’s] intent to the contrary.” Hudson v. United States, supra at 495, quoting United States v. Ursery, 518 U.S. 267, 290 (1996). The “revocation of a privilege voluntarily granted,” such as an operator’s license, “is characteristically free from the punitive criminal element.” Id. See Luk v. Commonwealth, supra at 423, [10] Powers v. Commonwealth, 426 Mass. 534 – Mass: Supreme Judicial Court 1998

It is unclear whether there was a personal injury lawsuit filed by Mass. Personal Injury attorneys as a result of the motorcycle wreck but clearly the Plaintiff could have sought punitive damages.

Pursuant to MA general Law 229 Section 2 allows for punitive damages “…in an amount of not less than five thousand dollars in such case as the decedent’s death was caused by the malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct of the defendant or by the gross negligence of the defendant…”

Thankfully no one perished as a result of the collision considering that operators of small vehicles such as bicycles and bikes are particularly susceptible to being involved in fatal crashes with a tractor trailers or semi-trucks.

If a person is killed as a result of a Massachusetts Accident, a wrongful death claim could be pursued. Under MA Negligence Law, “Section 2. A person who (1) by his negligence causes the death of a person, or (2) by willful, wanton or reckless act causes the death of a person under such circumstances that the deceased could have recovered damages for personal injuries if his death had not resulted, or (3) operates a common carrier of passengers and by his negligence causes the death of a passenger, or (4) operates a common carrier of passengers and by his willful, wanton or reckless act causes the death of a passenger under such circumstances that the deceased could have recovered damages for personal injuries if his death had not resulted, or (5) is responsible for a breach of warranty arising under Article 2 of chapter one hundred and six which results in injury to a person that causes death, shall be liable in damages….”  https://malegislature.gov/laws/generallaws/partiii/titleii/chapter229/section2

 

Comments are closed.