The most read story on the State Newspaper website today is the story about former Gamecock coach Jim Carlen's estate losing 1.3 million dollars in a lawsuit. His 24 year old son William, had borrowed his dad's SUV and credit card last May, went to Jake's Bar & Grill in 5 Points, ran up a $200 bar tab and then killed another 24 year old who was crossing Harden Street.
photo: Alvis S Glenn Detention Center
The pain this has caused the victims family is incomprehensible. The loss of a child at any age or circumstance is just something we're not built to deal with. For it to come so unexpectedly and allegedly at the hands of someone who was drunk would enrage all of us and we would want whatever justice that was available. William has been charged with felony DUI and is facing 15 years in prison if found guilty. However he hasn't been convicted of a crime yet, so it seems a bit a presumptuous to be moving ahead with lawsuits. What if the blood alcohol test wasn't issued properly? William blew a .20 which is double the legal limit, but Columbia police recently found out that at least one of their officers was giving the breath tests in a way that would increase the blood alcohol content. So there's still a chance the defense is going to get this DUI thrown out. And running up a $200 bar tab certainly doesn't mean you are drunk! A young fella with someone else's credit card could very likely be buying a lot of other people drinks. So because William at this point is presumed innocent meaning he didn't get drunk and ran over a kid, but rather just had an unfortunate accident that killed a pedestrian. That would put this case in a much different light.
But for the sake of argument I'll put all that to the side. Attorney Dick Harpootlian won a lawsuit first against Jake's for over-serving William. Again, William hasn't been found guilty of being drunk, so I'm not sure how the bar can be guilty of getting him drunk. But they are according to a Judge. Now Dick went after the estate of Coach Carlin, for lending his son a credit card and vehicle. Dick's argument is that William in 2011 had lost his license after pleading guilty to a different DUI. So the argument being made is that his dad is liable for letting his son drive his car with a history of DUI's. Common sense would argue the only person responsible for William Carlen is William Carlen. William Carlen became an adult at 18 and all choices henceforth are his own. Following the lawyers logic everyone else is responsible too. His dad for letting him borrow a car. The bar for serving him. Why not the passenger he had in the car at the time of the crash? Why aren't they being sued? They got in to a car with a person unfit to drive and allowed them to drive! What about the parking lot that allowed him to leave drunk? What about his friends who he told before hand that he wanted to go out that night? They knew he couldn't drive and certainly shouldn't be in 5 points. Didn't they have an obligation to try and stop him? The list is never ending for possible targets to be held liable for the bad decisions of William.
It's called negligent entrustment and has only been around about 100 years. Winn v Halliday was a case in 1915 where the lawyers argued liabilities for injuries to a 3rd person through acts of omission. From 1915 back through the old testament adults were held accountable for their own actions. Then lawyers found a way to pin it on others in an attempt to get more cash for victims and their selves.
Coach Carlen passed away in July 2012. So any punishment wouldn't be on him, or to teach him a lesson. It would be on his widow Merideth Carlen. I don't imagine they were rich. Jim last coached college football in 1981 long before the big bucks came. He started the football program at Hilton Head Christian Academy and coached them for a few years in the early 2000's. However his wife will now be out $275,000. Plus her insurance company will probably drop her as they will have to pay another million dollars! Dick Harpootlian tells the State "you need to understand that you may be personally liable". Meredith Carlin...who as far as we know, didn't even have any knowledge of her husband and sons agreement, is personally liable because her deceased husband let their adult son, who probably never told them of his DUI, borrow their car.
It's sickening for me to see how litigious our society has become. And yet it's always presented as helping the victims. To the contrary I believe these types of suits are hurting all American's The original definition of tort was to "grant that sum of money which will put the party who has been injured in the same position as he would have been if he had not sustained the wrong for which he is now getting his compensation or reparation." The little over 2 million dollars won does nothing to address the family who lost their son's position. It's now become about compensating for grief. There will come a day when a family will sue a pet store for selling them a pet with a bad heart. Or one family sues another over their children's divorce. We have turned grief, pain & suffering in to a cash bonanza which is driving all of our medical costs, and insurance rates through the roof!
Dick Harpootlian has agreed to come on our show today around 4:35 to discuss how wrong I am on this. While I disagree with him on this (and many other issues) I am really looking forward to having him on as he seems to be a highly intelligent and well reasoned man, with a great sense of humor.