I’ve commented before that no matter what happens, as far as some motorists are concerned, cyclists are always in the wrong – even when they are children. I’ve just read a case that really takes the cake in this regard.
Matthew Kenney was a popular seventh grader who loved sports. He was killed before he had a chance to have his first girlfriend, let alone grow up, marry and have kids. He was killed by Connecticut motorist David Weaving, who has a history of using cars as if they’re guns he’s firing randomly into a crowd. He has many drunken driving convictions, but the Department of Motor Vehicles messed up and forgot to take his driving license away.
So in April 2007, Weaving is weaving through the traffic at dusk, and passes another car. At the time, he’s doing 83 mph in a 45 mph zone. He ploughs into 14-year-old cyclist Matthew Kenney, breaking his bones, and severely injuring his internal organs and brain. Matthew dies the next day, with his distraught parents at his side.
Weaving is sentenced to 10 years for manslaughter. Good! But that’s not the end of the story. At the moment, he’s suing the bereaved parents, Joanne and Steven Kenning, claiming they were negligent in allowing Matthew to ride his bike on the roadway without a helmet. (Like it would have protected him from a car doing 83 mph!)
Weaving claims he has suffered great mental and emotional pain and suffering, wrongful conviction and imprisonment, and the loss of his capacity to carry on life’s activities. (And Matthew didn’t lose his capacity to carry on life’s activities?)
Mom Joanne Kenney says:
“It drags the pain on. It’s a constant reminder. Enough is enough. Can you just leave us alone and serve your time?” Of her son, she says: “He was a loving kid. He was a caring kid. He was a helping kid. He was a honors student. He played sports. He was full of life. He had so much to give.”
Unlike his killer, who apparently has no end of things to take. The worst of it – because Weaving is considered indigent, he gets to sue Matthew’s parents for free. They, on the other hand, have to come up with legal fees.
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and State Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz are appalled:
“Blaming the victim is just offensive. It takes obviously a very unique individual to go after the family of a deceased child. I would say it’s an unsound lawsuit.”
A unique individual indeed. But sadly, he fits pretty well in a society that tacitly condones motorist driving their cars like weapons of mass destruction – while placing the onus on cyclists to protect themselves from this reckless behaviour with helmets. IMO, this is like saying it’s just fine for people to fire guns into crowds of people – because the people really ought to be protecting themselves by wearing bullet proof vests!
Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture?
UPDATE: The November 29th 2010 issue of Bicycling.com features more details on this story.
I don’t even know what to really say.
Perhaps someone else knows more about this story, however there was a motorist in the States a few years back who hit and killed a cyclist. He then turned around and sued the cyclists family for damage to his car.
I never did follow up when this happened, so I’m not quite sure what happened.
This is why I’m beyond sick of motorists (or in this case, Fordorists) who whine about getting the short end of the stick all the time.
Cars still get preferential treatment on the roads. Realistically it is dirt cheap to drive in this country. When a bike lane is actually put in you have the Fordorists up in arms. The Fordorists get off when they kill a cyclist, and the ones who are charged receive no more then a couple of years.
Ryan, I will look for this story … sounds interesting – thanks!
Absolute perversion. The family will live with this forever, but when they are also being sued…
Do you know on what grounds his claim of wrongful conviction comes from?
Rob, I gather that Weaving’s point is that if the boy was wearing a helmet, he would not have died, then Weaving would not have been sentenced for manslaughter. It’s a ridiculous point, IMO, as no child could have withstood that kind of impact, helmet or no helmet. I believe there is research somewhere that shows that a helmet has no protective value over 35 mph – let alone 83 mph. I am not sure about this – I will have to research it .
But he did die, and the motorist has been found at fault. So how is it wrongful conviction? To me, wrongful conviction is only after you’ve served time and been found innocent after all. Then you’ve been wrongfully convicted.
I can’t help but think of my Grandmother – If ‘if’s’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts… think how rich you’d be.
We’re all on the same page, this thing stinks. I’m just trying to figure out how the guy comes to the decision to sue the parents. Maybe some things are beyond comprehension.
Alex P says
I am not a lawyer, and was only taught on Canadian tort law, but here the test for liability for negligence is:
1: Did the defendant owe a duty of care to the plaintiff?
2: Was the duty of care breached?
3: Was the breach in the duty of care proximal to the plaintiff’s loss?
That #1 is an interesting question. Do people riding their bikes owe a duty of care to people in cars to wear a helmet. Even if it turns out they do, it would also have to be shown by a balance of probabilities that the failure to wear a helmet was proximal to the driver’s loss. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Interesting, Alex. Cannot imagine that cyclists owe a duty of care to wear a helmet. It would be one of those opening the floodgate situations, IMO. If cyclists owe a duty of care like that, then pedestrians should surely also don helmets before crossing a road – in case a motorist mows them down in a crosswwalk, and then ends up with a mean old manslaughter conviction. And hey, shouldn’t motorists ALSO wear helmets, in case another motorist ploughs drunkenly into them, and also ends up with a manslaughter conviction that could have been avoided if the first motorist was sensible enough to put on a helmet before getting behind the wheel?
This is outrageous. Alex is right. From my recollection, under Canadian tort law, the only impact of the failure to wear a helmet would be on the victim, and it would be taken into account either in the allocation of liability (i.e. contributory negligence) or damages phase.
US law is strange, tho, so you can never know. It’s also very plaintiff friendly, meaning that unfortunately there is no remedy for you if someone sues you with absolutely no legal basis. Hopefully they either have third party liability insurance that covers it (e.g. house insurance that I’ve mentioned before) and/or there is a lawyer out there who will read about this and be willing to take on their defense pro bono, tho they still may be on the hook for disbursements (e.g. photocopies, filing fees). And of course that says absolutely nothing about the pain the family will continue to be put through as a result of this horrible man’s continuing actions.
It’s for things like this that I really do hope there is karma somewhere along the line.
I hear you on hoping for karma, Janine. Actually, some of my major life experiences thus far have inclined me to believe that karma is the driving force of the universe. I have seen some truly wonderful karmic events in my time – so much so that I don’t think I will ever again feel the need to personally seek revenge, for example. In any event, I am hoping that something or someone takes care of that family – and gives Weaving what he deserves too.