Drunk Driver Suing Victims

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Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427
Drunk Driver Suing Victims

http://autos.aol.com/article/why-a-convicted-drunk-driver-is-suing-his-victims/?ncid=txtlnkusauto00000020

In what many would call the biggest act of chutzpah of the last decade, a Florida man who pleaded guilty to committing DUI manslaughter in 2007 after police found drugs in his system is now filing a lawsuit against his dead victims for being the real cause of the accident.

David Belniak is apparently having second thoughts about his plea after spending a few years of a 12 year sentence behind bars. Belniak, who never spoke in his own defense during his trial, is being represented by his sister, an attorney, so legal fees are apparently not an issue.

Attorney Debra A. Tuomey, in making her brother's filing, said the Florida Highway Patrol's investigation of the case was a "government sanctioned assassination against one individual." Her suit suggests that the police and prosecutor's office were driven by Belniak's history as a DUI driver and convicted drug dealer rather than the facts of the accident .

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the lawsuit seeks to get the victims' relatives to pay Belniak, now 38, for his "pain and suffering ... mental anguish ... loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life" and the medical bills he got as a result of a crash he pleaded guilty to causing.

"This is ridiculous," Georgette DeFranco, 48, a relative of the victims, told the Times. "You caused it. You accepted guilt. How can I or anybody in this family be responsible for your injuries?"

DeFranco, the Times reported, lost her mother, Linda McWilliams, 66; her sister, Denise Bassi, 50; and her brother-in-law, Gerard Bassi, 51, in the crash. DeFranco's stepfather, Ray McWilliams, was injured but survived, but died last March at age 68 allegedly, in part, due to the after effects of the accident. The Bassi couple lived in Connecticut and were visiting Florida for the holidays.

Authorities said Belniak, at the time of the accident on Christmas day 2007, was driving between 75 and 85 mph when his pickup smashed into the back of McWilliams' Chevrolet Tahoe. The SUV crumpled. Gerard Bassi died at the scene. Denise Bassi died in surgery that day. Linda McWilliams was taken off life support a week later. Authorities said Belniak had alcohol, Xanax and evidence of cocaine in his system.

A record of drugs and bad driving

Belniak had a history of driving infractions, having faced DUI charges twice before, according to the Times. Belniak also served a previous prison term for possessing and trafficking GHB, commonly known as "the date rape drug."

So how could Belniak possibly be charging that the accident was the fault of the victim?
The suit claims McWilliams was in the left turn lane and "because of his sheer negligence" McWilliams abruptly changed lanes, "making it impossible" for Belniak to avoid the collision. The suit also accuses McWilliams of "possibly" being under the influence of medication at the time of the crash.

Tuomey has said that her brother accepted a plea deal on the three counts of DUI manslaughter and other charges because he was facing a possible sentence of life in prison.

Maureen M. Deskins, the Tampa attorney representing the estate of Linda and Ray McWilliams, told the Tampa Bay Times the lawsuit is "gut-wrenching" and that the relatives are "stunned."

Anyone would be, especially given Belniak's history on top of the details of the accident.

This article got me thinking; assuming that what the drunk driver said was absolutely true (the accident was actually caused by the other family, despite the fact that the other guy was drunk) should he be allowed to sue for damages? In other words, does being drunk at the time of the accident negate any damages he might have, even if he's not actually responsible for the accident?

Other thoughts?

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

http://autos.aol.com/article/why-a-convicted-drunk-driver-is-suing-his-victims/?ncid=txtlnkusauto00000020

This article got me thinking; assuming that what the drunk driver said was absolutely true (the accident was actually caused by the other family, despite the fact that the other guy was drunk) should he be allowed to sue for damages? In other words, does being drunk at the time of the accident negate any damages he might have, even if he's not actually responsible for the accident?

Other thoughts?

I don't think you can say most accidents involving a drunk driver aren't at least in part due to the driver being drunk. Reaction time is impaired the point of not being able to prevent accidents that should otherwise be avoided. I've had many near misses due to people breaking various traffic laws. But because I am alert, I can avoid the situation.

In his case, I have no idea where he is coming from. Pleading guilty is going to prevent him from winning a judgment against the other family. That's just bizarre.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

He's why I believe in the death penalty. This kind of scum should'nt be allowed to hurt those families again. How is being in the left turn lanenegligence and exactly where in Florida is there a turn lane with a speed limit of 75? How do we know Williams wasn't trying to escape from the collision by trying to avoid the drunk driver?

Starryblue702's picture
Joined: 04/06/11
Posts: 5454

I apologize in advance as I can't access the link provided on my work computer (they block a lot of sites). All I have to go off of is what's posted here. As far as the accident, how can the ones that lost their lives be at fault AT ALL if he hit them from behind as the article states? Anywhere I've ever lived, if you rear end someone, it's your fault... period. I think that it's sick that he's doing this. He killed four people because of his irresponsible actions and now because he's tired of living in jail he's trying to come back at the victim's family? This is the lowest of the low.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

Didn't we do this one already? I can't find it on the search, but I remember thinking that the sister should be disbarred in addition to the brother's ridiculous suit being thrown out.

Joined: 11/17/06
Posts: 437

Most of the time if you hit someone in the behind it's ruled as your fault. As the previous poster said - where would you be approaching a turn lane at 75 miles per hour.

As someone who has lost someone to a Drunk Driver I will pray for this family and their suffering. It's more pain than anyone should have to bear to have your family ripped apart in a matter of moments. To now have this happening is just unthinkable. I hope the court throws this one out fast to prevent anymore suffering.

I know that when people die in accidents they generally take toxicology and all that for testing so it shouldn't be hard for them to prove whether the guy driving the other vehicle was drunk.