Former First Lady Laura Bush has conceded negligence in the November 6, 1963 car crash she was involved in at age 17, in Midland, Texas. She concedes running a stop sign and hitting another car, killing its driver. The driver of the other car, Michael Douglas, was a start athlete and friend of hers.
Her concession comes, according to the New York Times today, in a book that she wrote to be released next month. According to the Times,
Mrs. Bush concedes that she and her friend were chatting when she ran the stop sign. But she also suggests a host of factors beyond her control played a role — the pitch-black road, an unusually dangerous intersection, the small size of the stop sign, and the car the victim was driving.
Those other factors that are mentioned, however, would likely have no bearing on her own fault, a subject she basically acknowledges in discussing her grief over the accident that has carried on for decades.
Since accidents of this type are rather common in the personal injury field, here’s my two rupees of analysis if a civil suit resulted:
In the language of the law — at least in NY — the failure to yield at a stop sign makes someone negligent as a matter of law that requires a court to grant summary judgment if a civil action was brought, unless the defendant could set forth a non-negligent reason for the conduct. The fact that the road was “pitch-black” would be a reason to be more cautious, but it doesn’t work as an excuse. The fact that the intersection was “unusually dangerous” might play a role in municipal liability, but since she was a local resident presumably familiar with that intersection, that would likely be a tough defense to raise.
As to the “small stop sign,” I don’t know what to think since I’ve only seen one size on roadways and would presume this one was the same as all others. I would not accept her word that it was anything other than a regular sized sign and would want some kind of proof of it being smaller. Since that part of the Times piece is paraphrased, and not quoted, I’ll leave that part as an open question on the issue of municipal liability.