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Criminal or negligent?

November 10, 2011

The recent criminal court verdict in the case of Michael Jackson’s physician have many people wondering whether the doctor’s conduct was truly criminal, or was it negligent to the max? Was a criminal trial the proper venue, or would a civil medical malpractice lawsuit have made more sense? There were many factors involved, some which are known by us; probably many others which we are not privy to. That case did not take place in New York, where we practice. Without exception, the cases handled by our New York law firm are civil cases. However, some of the cases do also have a separate proceeding handled by other attorneys in a NY criminal court. Dram shop cases are one example. Another example is where a defendant vehicle driver who caused injury to our client is criminally charged. A reported case involved the driver of a Chevrolet Camaro who lost control of his vehicle around a curve, skidded into the oncoming traffic lane, and was hit broadside by a Ford Escort. The front seat passenger in the Camaro was killed. Accident reconstruction by the State Police estimated the Camaro’s speed at 47 mph when it lost control; based on these findings the driver was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide. Expert reconstruction of the crash determined the driver of the Camaro acted improperly in a manner that caused the death of the front seat passenger. Opposing expert reconstruction determined that the driver’s conduct did not rise to a criminal level. The driver of the Camaro was absolved of all criminal charges related to this incident, meaning that that driver was not criminally responsible. However, using this case as an example, that very same driver can nonetheless be found to have been negligently liable in the civil courts, and thus be fully responsible for the wrongful death, injuries, pain, suffering and damages of the Ford Escort’s driver and/or passengers.

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