Saturday, July 08, 2006

Nebraska motor vehicle guest statute limiting liability for related guest passengers is (barely) constitutional: Nebraska Supreme CourtLe v Lautrup 271 Neb. 931 Filed July 7, 2006. No. S-04-743. Granddaughter sued grandfather for motor vehicle accident in which she was a passenger. The Nebraska Supreme Court, J. Miller Lerman for the majority rejected the plaintiff's challenge to the constitutionality of § 25-21,237 sustaining the defendant's district court demurrer based on simple negligence. The action went to trial on the sole remaining theory of gross negligence, resulting in a defense verdict. "We conclude that the district court did not err in rejecting the Les' challenge to the constitutionality of § 25-21,237." Dissenting Justices Gerrard, McCormack and CJ Hendry argued that § 25-21,237 is not rationally related to a legitimate purpose because "persons who are of a mindset to engage in collusion are unlikely find the guest statute discouraging. Justice Gerrard also might have mentioned that § 25-21,237 does not apply to relatives involved in accidents when they are not passengers in the same automobile. to lie. Thus, Justice Gerrard finds the "collusion prevention" rationale is hardly a rational basis for a blanket provision barring passengers from bringing general negligence claims against drivers to whom they are related. Maybe Justice Gerrard doesn't read the news around the country or doesn't "google" the armchair legislator concepts he cooks up. If the good Justice Gerrard, our own Roscoe Pound had bothered he might have found these gems on family members' involvement in staged auto accidents: Virginia: " Organized insurance crime rings, for example, operate widely in the state’s expanding urban areas. Many rings specialize in staging auto accidents that scam large sums of insurance money, for example. These rings are hard to crack because they’re complex, well-hidden, and often run by family members who closely protect each other’s identities." Albany, New York: "A boxing champion and six members of his family have been indicted on charges of enterprise corruption stemming from what Albany County prosecutors say is a scheme in which they staged dozens of automobile accidents and collected thousands of dollars from false insurance claims." Now maybe Justice Gerrard is on to something: many of these staged accident rings involve immigrants whose loyalty to family supersedes the law. We couldn't legislate against immigrants could we? So we discriminate against citizens who might deserve recourse in a case like Friday's.

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