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James Ryan, a young man of 25, was arrested for manslaughter in the death of a police officer that arose out of a drunk driving incident on the Long Island Expressway on November 23rd. Ryan had been involved in two vehicle collisions, striking a BMW and later a Honda Civic, before coming to rest in the HOV lane of the LIE. Nassau County police officer Joseph Olivieri had stopped to assist the victims of the crash when he was struck by a Cadillac Escalade that had swerved to avoid hitting Ryan’s vehicle in the HOV lane. Olivieri later died of his wounds sustained in the traffic accident.
The dangers of drunk driving are of course well known. In this instance, the driver’s impaired judgment may have contributed to several apparently avoidable missteps, including 1) causing the first collision, 2) failing to stop after the first collision, 3) causing the second collision, and 4) stopping his vehicle on the highway after the second crash instead of pulling over to a safe place on the shoulder. Drunk driving in this instance not only directly caused two car crashes, but also indirectly caused a third wreck, which resulted in the death of a third party.
If the driver can be arrested for manslaughter in this incident, there is a good chance he could be considered civilly liable as well. The main issue to be determined is likely that of proximate cause. To be liable for causing another’s injury, you must actually have caused that injury. Clearly, Ryan did not strike the officer with his vehicle; another driver in another car did that. Is that other driver responsible, or did Ryan’s actions start a chain of events which led to the officer’s death? Was the driver of the vehicle also negligent, and if so, did that negligence serve to break the chain of events and act as an independent, intervening or superseding cause which should relieve Ryan of legal responsibility? These issues are some of the most complicated that arise in a personal injury or wrongful death civil lawsuit, but they are not uncommon; in fact, complex questions like these are often raised by the defense in an attempt to avoid financial responsibility.
This blog is often about personal injury and the legal issues involved, and while we may discuss the finer legal points of a traffic accident, we are at the same time touched and saddened by the human suffering these accidents bring. Our hearts do go out to the families and friends of the officer and others injured in the accident, and also to the driver and his family, who are surely devastated by this tragedy as well. If you ever find yourself needing assistance in handling an automobile accident or other New York City personal injury, please contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. at 1-800-634-8144 for a free consultation.
James Ryan, a young man of 25, was arrested for manslaughter in the death of a police officer that arose out of a drunk driving incident on the Long Island Expressway on November 23rd.
Is the Drunk Driver Liable for Causing the Death?
Clearly, Ryan did not strike the officer with his vehicle; another driver in another car did that. Is that other driver responsible, or did Ryan’s actions start a chain of events which led to the officer’s death?