At the start of every jury trial, the Judge usually tells the jury a little bit about the case. Then he/she goes on to say that the plaintiff will give an opening, followed by the opening of the defense. The jury is then prepared to hear both sides of the story.
Pilot Online has been reporting about a continuing story that involves a man who was killed, when he was run over by a Virginia Beach dump truck (story), while he was sleeping on the beach. The stories have been focusing on the two sides of the story.
One one hand, there is evidence that the dump truck driver had some previous driving issues and a driving record. Separately, there have been other stories about issues of oversight regarding other city employees and improper credit card spending, that could show that the City is not properly supervising its employees. In addition, if you read the possible background evidence about the dump truck driver, she apparently would regularly post entries on her Facebook account, about how tired she was, or how long she had stayed up the night before. Her job required early morning trash pick-up on the Beach front.
If you were going to present the case, you would hope to keep the emphasis on the conduct of the dump truck driver. Instead, most of the emphasis has been placed on the man who was killed. All of a sudden, homelessness is in the news. While the city is not accepting liability, it is offering to set up a fund to help the homeless.
Separately, most of the reporting directs a focus on the lawyer, representing the estate of the man. The lawyer has said that he wants the city to pay 25 million to settle the case. Since the city says that it has immunity, it is refusing to pay. Not surprisingly, when this story came out, all the online comments were about greed. The Viewpoint had shifted to the money, instead of the fault and harm of the dump truck driver.
Meanwhile, the newspaper ran an editorial on why there should be basically be no payment, because the man was homeless and now, it is outrageous that his family has taken a sudden interest in him, now that there might be money involved.
As a sidenote to the editorial that was written, the writer is married to a Virginia Beach Judge. In fact, if a lawsuit is filed, he could potentially hear motions or even preside over the trial. Of course, there is no rule that says a Judge is conflicted out of a case, just because his wife disagrees with the lawsuit. Normally though, I’m guessing the public wouldn’t know about that opinion.
I blog on this because I suspect the city will not voluntarily pay. Then, suit will be filed and there will have to be a ruling on whether the dump truck driver was performing a governmental function. If so, then gross negligence, instead of ordinary negligence, will have to be proven. Basically, a proof of reckless, willful and wanton conduct is how the jury instruction would read.
As I type this, I guess there are more than two sides to this. Ultimately, a jury of seven, in the civil suit, may have to decide who is the “TruthGiver” when the evidence is presented. I’m sure the openings of the two lawyers would present different viewpoints.
By the way, did I happen to mention that there were two rallys over the weekend. One led by Glenn Beck and the other by Al Sharpton. No one could get them together for one rally, to celebrate Martin Luther King’s “I had a dream” speech. I’m guessing they didn’t have the same viewpoint.